One very smart wheelchair - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

One very smart wheelchair

Written by on February 24, 2016 in Digital Health, Happiness, Work with 1 Comment

Jordan Nguyen image black & whiteWe never know what the turning points will be in our life. Sometimes they occur when we meet someone, or we go somewhere, or we have a certain conversation. Other times, when we experience terrible loss or perhaps even narrowly escape death.

Dr Jordan Nguyen is a biomedical engineer, visionary and innovator, who is giving the opening address at Happiness & Its Causes 2016 on behalf of event sponsor, New Horizons. In this presentation, he describes a game changing moment of his own that took place in 2005 when he was attending a friend’s birthday pool party.

Nguyen recalls that just as he took his turn to jump off the pool’s diving board, the screws attaching it came loose and he ended up hitting hitting his head on the pool’s bottom. He says, “The crunch I felt and heard at the back of my neck was absolutely deafening.” So much so he was convinced he’d broken his neck and would probably “never play tennis again”, a pastime he’d enjoyed with his triplet siblings.

Nguyen was subsequently rushed to hospital where he learned, much to his relief, that he’d escaped serious injury. However, he was completely immobilised and bedridden all of the following day due to damaged muscles in his back, an experience that made him realise how incredibly lucky he’d been. And considering the path he’s followed ever since, it also, crucially, got him thinking about permanent disability and enabling technologies, particularly those that can be applied to wheelchairs.

He says, “I started looking it up and found that you were able to control a wheelchair with hands free controls, for disability from the neck down, by either moving your chin, or pushing against head pads or with a tube, all very difficult to use. I’d seen children at rehabilitation centres after using this system for months still crashing into things.”

Nguyen’s growing resolve to “design something [better] for people in these situations” was further strengthened by his friendship with Maree. A massive stroke had left her with locked-in syndrome yet despite only being able to blink, Nguyen tells of Maree’s “great will and motivation to move ahead with her life.”

The fact Nguyen was studying at the time provided him with the perfect opportunity to realise his passion of helping people with high-level disability. He says, “For both my undergraduate and PhD theses, I designed a smart wheelchair.”

The prototype Nguyen developed specifically uses cameras to view its environment and provides autonomous navigation assistance to the operator while they control it purely by thought. It’s an invention that has won him lots of attention demonstrating as it does the constantly changing relationship between humanity and technology as both become more integrated leading us to a future that Nguyen believes is beyond ‘Super Human’.


Dr Jordon Nguyen is a social entrepreneur, professional speaker and biomedical engineer and as such, is the perfect fit to deliver the opening address at Happiness & Its Causes 2016 on behalf of event partner, New Horizons.

Tags: , ,

1 Reader Comment

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. whiteleycho says:

    There is no limit to human ingenuity and creativity. When we believe we can better something, and follow that up with proactive action, we do achieve the better way. Well done Dr Jordan. May happiness reign supreme in your way of living. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *