Nino Robotics: putting users in the spotlight
People who have trouble walking or can’t walk at all often must adapt to a wheelchair in order to move around. What if we created a device that adapts to its user, puts the spotlight on them, and makes them want to get out and move around all the time? It’s with the idea of putting the user forward that Pierre Bardina designed Nino Robotics devices, an innovation for which he scored an invitation to the Movin’On Summit 2018, and that made him one of the two winners of the Movin’On Startup Challenge. He shared his thoughts on mobility in an interview.
Nino Robotics, demystifying the seated transporter
When he talks about the products he designs and markets, Pierre Bardina never uses the term wheelchair. “We have to demystify it,” he explains. “Whether you are disabled or not, whatever means of land transport you use, whether you like it or not, you are sitting and you’re moving on wheels. So in some way, you are in a wheelchair when you are in a car, on a bus, on a train, on a bicycle, on a motorcycle, whatever means of transport you use, you are in a wheelchair but you don’t notice it. So we talk about a seated transporter because it’s more glamorous and it’s not scary.”
And in a world where indoor and outdoor travel is facilitated by the Nino – a seated transporter operating like a Segway – or the One – a scooter that adapts to traditional wheelchairs – the fear of getting out, moving around, and being seen simply disappears.
Instead, the user is highlighted by these machines. And as Pierre Bardina points out, “it is very important for us, because highlighting the user means that they will feel considered, their potential health and mobility problems notwithstanding. And if I feel considered, I will go out more often, I will have better relationships with others, and they will see me differently. It will make me feel better, and if I feel better, I will be healthier.” In short, he is betting that design can influence people’s health and morale.
Design is good for morale
The Nino and other Nino Robotics devices are designed around the human being with particular attention to the components used: plexiglass, wood, colour, very light design, all to enhance the user. “You get noticed when you’re on a Nino,” explains Pierre Bardina, “but it’s not the fact of being on a Nino that gets you noticed: it’s you. It’s because you’re happy on your Nino that you stand out.” For example, the height and positioning of the person on the seat have a significant impact on their interactions with others. On a Nino, the user is seated considerably higher than in a traditional wheelchair. Indeed, whatever the height of the user, their head will be about 1m65 above the ground. “Sitting higher allows you to be almost at the height of the person walking, and therefore in relationship to and discussion with others, people treat you as an equal instead of looking down on you”.
The Movin’On Startup Challenge: confronting ideas to grow
Meeting the right people at the right time is an integral part of the Movin’On Summit experience for participants, speakers, and partners alike. And for Pierre Bardina, this is one of the most promising aspects of his presence in Montreal in 2018. “I met people who are likely to be partners in our project.” He is even in the process of building a partnership with someone he met at the Movin’On Summit. “I am in discussion with Christophe Piquemale, CEO of Otonohm, who develops battery technology”, with a charger integrated directly into the battery. They are collaborating on mobility solutions for everyone, regardless of their level of comfort with walking, to be used in large areas such as airports, theme parks, shopping malls, and cities.
For a mobility startup, Pierre Bardina considers that participating in the Movin’On Startup Challenge is “a test, for yourself and for your project. It is an opportunity to share with other startup leaders, but also with CEOs from bigger companies, with a multinational audience that comes from different cultures, all over the world. The goal is to compare your ideas with other cultures, other technologies, other audiences, and this is where it is very rewarding. In a very short time, it is an opportunity to test your idea. And it’s also the opportunity to meet very high-flying, large industrial partners.” He adds that for him, it was also an opportunity to discover business opportunities within Quebec and Canada, which can often be gateways to the American continent.
A fellowship of start-ups
Among the 39 startups who were at the Movin’On 2018 Summit, the companies involved in electric mobility and bicycle upcycling particularly impressed Pierre Bardina. “And the other sector of activity that impressed me,” he adds, “was the transport of goods by sail, and this very exciting project – Port franc – which seemed quite promising.”
“I appreciated that the issue of the mobility of people who live with disabilities was taken into account. The fact that we were invited, AddSeat and myself, means that within the mobility sector, people who have difficulty moving around are taken into account as part of the Movin’On Summit. And it’s quite important.”
The Movin’On Startup Challenge will be back at the Movin’On Summit 2019, from June 4-6 in Montreal. Eligible companies are invited to apply before March 1.