A man on a mission: How Dr Jordan Nguyen is mixing science and storytelling to build a better future for us all.
Futurist, biomedical engineer, humanitarian, documentary maker, storyteller, tech entrepreneur, disability advocate… Dr Jordan Nguyen wears many hats as part of his quest to create tech-led solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges.
Jordan will be the closing keynote speaker at the 2019 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference (19OPCC) later this year, sharing his passion for evolving technologies and the life-changing opportunities they present to the palliative care, disability and aged care sectors. This will include showcasing his exciting work on the role of robotics and artificial intelligence in aged care and palliative care settings.
“These areas [aged care and palliative care] inspire me because I’ve watched friends and family members go through these and think that if the technology is here and can provide new options to improve quality of life, why not explore them together?” says Dr Nguyen.
“I also know that I’m approaching these designs from the perspective of my love for my own family members, and the things I want to know will exist by the time they get older.
“If I can design for those I love, I’m sure the creations could help improve quality-of-life for others too. And that’s where we have common ground, we all want to know we can provide the best quality-of-life possible for our elderly loved ones, so I believe exploring the latest advancements are well worth the effort.”
Reflecting on his ‘futurist’ approach to the world, Jordan says he’s always had a tendency to look a few steps ahead to see how current technology trends could solve life’s ‘impossible problems’.
“For many years I’ve looked at trends in technology, made predictions about what’s coming next, and endeavoured to invent and create with the next steps in mind, but always with an underlying purpose asking ‘how can these advancements be used to improve lives?’.
“In many cases I can see how a particular technology, or convergence of a group of technologies, could be utilised to solve a seemingly impossible problem. So I draw up what I think I need, often collate a team of passionate people who want to be part of it, and we get to work, problem solving each hurdle as it comes.
“Through my documentaries I also get to travel the world and witness how science and technology impacts societies and the world at large, so all these experiences allow me to build an idea of the future. Not a prediction of the future… but instead, possible positive futures pathways that are worth fighting for, sharing with others and working towards every day.”
First hitting our TV screens back in 2016 with his award winning documentary for ABC Catalyst Becoming Superhuman, Jordan has since cemented his place as one of the Australia’s most respected and innovative voices on the intersection of technology and humanity.
A hero for tech enthusiasts and self-proclaimed ‘science geeks’, Jordan has managed to cross viewer genres, appealing to a mass audience with his engaging personality. This has been attributed to his very human approach to exploring technology – stepping beyond the test lab into the lives of his interview subjects and sharing their stories.
In Becoming Superhuman, Jordan introduced us to his friend Riley, a young man living with cerebral palsy. The program followed Riley’s quest for greater control over his environment, ‘using biomedical technology (called Electrooculography, or EOG) to harness the small electrical signals from his eye movements (the only part of his body that Riley could independently move) to control his surroundings. This included control of common household devices (light switches, TV) all the way to a purpose-built car that Riley was able to drive with his eyes.
After a series of documentaries for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, Jordan returned to Catalyst in 2017 for Meet the Avatars, which explored the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in a range of clinical and social scenarios.
While the technology featured in Meet the Avatars was sophisticated and cutting edge – once again it was Jordan’s onscreen interaction with his interview subjects that really resonated. This included Angus McConnel, who tested VR and muscle stimulation to overcome limitations of his spinal cord injury, and Jordan’s own mum, who in very personal, emotional scenes spoke about the possibility of recreating her late father’s memories via a VR avatar and what that would mean to her.
Since the program aired, Jordan’s been refining his ‘Meet the Avatars’ VR technology with his company, Psykinetic, and says there is potential for it to be used to preserve memories and capture an individual’s ‘essence’ as they approach end of life.
“I think most of us inherently want to know we mattered to others. That we could leave some sort of legacy. That we could maybe even impart some life learnings and wisdom on future generations in our family. And of course, not be forgotten. I absolutely believe my avatar technology has a role to play here. I’m advancing the technology bit by bit in the background, and will give some exciting updates at 19OPCC this year!”
Never one to sit on his laurels, Jordan is currently in the process of writing his first book and refining designs for a number of projects, such as an inclusive Chess game, a first of its kind utilising cutting edge tech.
“I’m currently writing a book which is exciting and nearing my first complete draft. It’s allowing me to delve further into my own mind and deeper into the various technologies of today, to help give a guide to the next steps to come.
“I’ll bring stories of my eye-opening, mind-expanding adventures with me to the conference this year. Looking forward to it!”
Early Bird registrations are now open for the 2019 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference in Perth from 10 – 13 September. Register now to hear Dr Jordan Nguyen and our world-class line up of speakers, and share ideas with academics, clinicians, care workers, consumers, volunteers and all who share a passion for palliative care.
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