“AGNES is not necessarily destiny, but it does provide users and observers with insights into what their older self might be.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) is a suit that allows wearers to feel what it’s like to be 80 years old with some chronic health conditions, according to MIT News. 

In the recent Disney+ docuseries, “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth,” the Australian actor got to experience MIT AgeLab’s technology firsthand. He donned a specially-fitted AGNES with bungees, 30 pounds of added weight, and Crocs to make him unbalanced, resulting in what Hemsworth called a “fashion disaster.”

Hemsworth then integrated into a nursing home to experience what life would be like for him in his 80s. He was even given an ID badge featuring a digitally aged version of himself.

Throughout the final episode of the series, which is titled “acceptance,” Hemsworth attempts to overcome the obstacles the suit imposes on him. Ultimately, he faces the reality that he is limited, and aging is inevitable.

At Sunset Pines, the nursing home Hemsworth assimilated into, everyone kept telling him to “live every day to the fullest,” which is what the experiment was designed to teach him.

AGNES made its debut in 2006 and was featured on the “The Try Guys” YouTube channel, as well as the PBS documentary “Fast Forward” before this.

While the device has been used for entertainment, AGNES is also valuable for understanding how people age and developing tools that might be of use to the elderly. MIT’s creation has been used to “inform the design of public transportation systems, retail environments, medical devices, and product packaging,” according to MIT News.

AgeLab Director Joe Coughlin told MIT that AGNES’ purpose changed over time.

“It began with a neck brace and elastic bands that we used to better understand the challenges of automobile ingress and egress for older users,” Coughlin said. “Today, we use AGNES to give researchers and students a taste of the friction, frustration, and fatigue that older adults often experience.”

Coughlin added that AGNES might not show users their “destiny,” but she can give insight into who they will become.

“It’s an opportunity for us to imagine our future today so that we might have a better life tomorrow,” Coughlin said.

The show premiered on Disney+ in November.


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