Empathy Lab Showcases Smart Technologies to Help Disabled Veterans

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2018

What if a veteran’s home could detect and respond to symptoms of a PTSD-related event in everyday life? What if more elements of life were connected through emerging technology to make life for disabled veterans easier and more accessible? These are questions that employees at USAA recently tackled through a 24-hour “Hackathon,” submitting ideas and working on coding to make similar ideas prototyped a reality.Empathy Lab Showcases Smart Technologies to Help Disabled Veterans

Showcased in its “Empathy Lab” at USAA headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, a home of the not-too-distant future is envisioned, featuring a wide array of smart devices and technologies designed to work together to improve the lives of veterans, especially those with adaptability and disability needs.

Empathy Lab Uses Smart Technologies to Help Disabled Veterans

For example, a veteran, just home from deployment, is at home on any given evening, preparing to watch a family-friendly movie with his child. However, as a preview is shown for a historical movie, war-related imagery is shown, triggering PTSD symptoms for the veteran.

His wearable smart device then registers the symptoms – an increase in heart rate, rapid breathing – and responds by activating appropriate responses throughout the house. The lights in the home are slightly raised and changed to a soothing color. The temperature is lowered and the screen of the television immediately changes to a calming beach scene. Finally, an emergency contact, pre-determined by the veteran, is dialed by a smart device. All this occurs within moments of the first signs of duress.

This responsive scenario is one of the numerous smart solutions featured in USAA’s Empathy Lab, a 1,288-square-foot display space, centered around the apartment-like exhibit that gives the media, public and veterans a way to visualize what the future might hold for smarter homes. Other showcased concepts include a “smart mirror” that is not only wheelchair accessible but includes a digital overlay featuring a calendar, the weather and other daily information.

The Empathy Lab also features a look into some of the new technologies and tools being leveraged by USAA employees, for both training purposes and for responses to customer needs. An interactive map allows viewers to navigate an immersive view of the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, both before and after the event. Drones, satellite maps and an augmented reality device using Microsoft’s HoloLenses – all used to help facilitate claims – round out the dozen or so technologies highlighted in the lab.

Along the wall of the Empathy Lab are more than 700 patents for technologies under development, many from employees outside of USAA Labs. Organizers, however, explain that as part of their Hackathon event, they saw more than 90% participation rates from USAA employees wanting to contribute ideas and technologies to help veterans. USAA hopes to continue development on these innovations to eventually bring them to market in the near future.

USAA provides banking, insurance, investment and retirement services to current service members, former military with an honorable discharge, cadets and midshipmen, military family members and widows and widowers. The company began in 1922 when 25 Army officers met in San Antonio and decided to insure each other's vehicles, Today the company serves millions of veterans and their families and is one of the only fully integrated financial services organizations in America.

Written by Megan Hammons

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