By VINNIE RODI
“THINK different. Think big. We are only limited by our imagination.”
These words form the mantra that Sydney-based biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen, PICTURED, lives by.
At just 33 years old, Dr Nguyen has already taken the scientific world by storm, thanks in part to his goal of re-defining the boundaries between human and technological evolution.
The guest speaker at this week’s Mallee Family Care Annual General Meeting, Dr Nguyen has built a reputation for designing life-changing, intelligent technologies to transform the lives of people with a disability.
Sharing his personal story with those in attendance, while also touching on the rapid rise of virtual and augmented reality-based technologies and his own innovations in robotics, Dr Nguyen’s passionate and captivating presentation proved inspiring for those in the room.
Talking exclusively to the Mildura Weekly after his presentation, Dr Nguyen said that his main message was based on encouraging each individual to embrace their ability to bring about change.
“It doesn’t matter where we live in the world… you have an ability to bring about change,” he said. “You need to start thinking big… you need to start thinking that you’re able.
“My presentation touches on the power of the mind, human endeavour, and how we as humans, individuals, groups, organisations and societies are shaping the future.
“We need to be aware of what’s out there, think about what sort of problems we want to solve, why we want to solve them, and what could help us achieve those purposes.
“We also need to know why different technologies exist because they are coming and they are shaping the world… and to look outside our own circle is also very important.”
Among the many stories shared with those at the AGM was Dr Nguyen’s work to create an opportunity, through the power of technology, for a 13-year-old boy suffering from severe cerebral palsy to achieve his dream of driving a car.
Dr Nguyen and a team of engineers were able to design a system that allowed the young man to control a car through eye movement. The project, and its subsequent success, became the catalyst for an ABC documentary.
Similar technology has also been used to help another of Dr Nguyen’s friends, Jessica Irwin, play a musical instrument for the first time in her life.
It’s success that Dr Nguyen admits can get quite emotional.
“There’s a bit of a cycle involved, I get inspired by my friends based on their mindset, and then that inspiration turns into some form of creation that I get to work with them on… and then we get to see the outcome of that human endeavour,” he said.
“The feeling I get as a result is unmatched. It’s the feeling that my life can make a difference, that it can have an impact.
“I want to share that knowledge and understanding with as many people as possible so we can all have those impacts.
“If I can provide a couple of the tools to allow my friends to take control of their own destiny and their dreams, then we’re going to see this ripple effect of people contributing to society and changing people.
“It’s about creating the stepping stones to head towards a better future.
“I’m excited about seeing how far this goes. We might be able to see human travel beyond the moon in our lifetime.
“We might be able to see an extension of life, or a redefinition of evolution or life. It’s even possible we might see a form of immortality in our lifetime.”
Dr Nguyen’s inspiration to help others follows a life-changing incident as a young man, where in a dive gone wrong he hit his head on the bottom of a swimming pool and was left confined to bed, unable to move and fearing permanent damage.
He said that at the time he had found himself considering a life without independence.
Fortunately he recovered, and emerged from the experience with determination and commitment to educate himself about disability and to direct his energies to challenges that people with disability face when trying to access necessary equipment and resources that enable independence.
Dr Nguyen completed a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 2012, in the process developing a mind-controlled smart wheelchair for people with high-level physical disability.
The project combined scientific understanding (neuroscience and biological inspiration from nature) with current-day technology (advanced camera systems, artificial intelligence and robotics) to provide the operator with an autonomous guidance during navigation.
Working with major disability charities over the next few years, Dr Nguyen has established and managed technology initiatives to improve the quality of life for people living with cerebral palsy and related conditions.
He founded ‘Psykinetic’ – a social business that creates futuristic empowering and inclusive technologies to improve quality of life.
With work ranging from biomedical technology to artificial intelligence, robotics, empathetic and human-centred design, virtual reality and augmented reality, the projects created are being described as cutting-edge and ambitious.
His work has been featured in a range of TV, radio, magazine and newspaper interviews, most notably ABC’s Catalyst and Channel TEN’s The Project.