It's wonderful to be me. I think it's safe to say that my incredible good looks and sense of style and fashion go without saying. Nor do we need to dwell on my ready wit, cutting intelligence, and oratorical abilities. What I'm talking about here is that fact that I get to hear about really cool stuff before you do (LOL).
To take a case in point, Dean Kamen is someone I really respect. I've never met him, so I doubt the feeling is mutual, but that doesn’t stop me admiring his work. Like it says in a new documentary about Dean that's just been released, he is on a quest to fix the world, one problem at a time.
Dean started way back in the mists of time making medical equipment. Along the way, he invented the Segway (I so want one of these little scamps).
Then there's the DEKA Arm, which is a DARPA-funded robotic arm project intended to restore functionality for individuals with upper extremity amputations.
The self-balancing technology from the Segway eventually found a new lease of life in the iBOT — a wheelchair gives disabled persons the ability to navigate any terrain and approach life with a new sense of dignity.
The iBOT’s self-balancing technology allows the user to go up and down staircases, navigate difficult terrains, and “stand” at eye level with the ambulatory people around them. In fact, there's a brilliant video sequence in the new documentary that shows a disabled man changing a light bulb in a ceiling-mounted fixture while sitting in an iBOT that rears up and then maintains a perfect balance. This scene literally took my breath away.
But what is this documentary of which I speak? Well, around the beginning of June, I was approached by someone who asked if I would care to see a private screening of a documentary film called SLINGSHOT about Dean's life and work.
I jumped at the chance, of course, and I'm happy to report that this documentary is a real eye opener. Unfortunately, I was bound to secrecy, but now I'm happy to say that SLINGSHOT premiers this evening as I pen these words in New York City, followed by other premiers and limited released around the country (click here for screening information).
SLINGSHOT covers a lot of ground, but the main thrust is Dean's latest project, which is water purification. Dean notes that around 50% of all illnesses in the world are caused by waterborne pathogens. There are various existing water purification systems, but they are typically expensive, hard to use, and require the operators to understand the types of contamination they are trying to deal with — salt (in seawater), heavy metals, biological elements, etc. After a lot of research, Dean and his colleagues have come up with a unit about the size of a small refrigerator.
The reason the outer case of this rugged unit looks like the bed liner of a Chevy truck is that the original prototype was made out of… you guessed it… the bed liner of a Chevy truck.
This system is based on a vapor compression distiller. There are no filters, no membranes, and no chemicals. You stick the input pipe into anything that looks wet — the ocean, a puddle, a 50-gallon container of urine — and pure, distilled water comes out of the output pipe.
Water — or the lack thereof — is predicted to be one of the major problems facing the world in years to come. Dean's solution could mean the difference between life and death for countless people. Once again, I am in awe of the man. If you get a chance, please do take the time to watch that documentary if it comes to a cinema near you.