Lego-compatible prosthetic arm lets kids' imaginations run wild
For Colombian designer Carlos Torres, how to best tackle the low self-esteem and social isolation felt by child amputees is about more than finding the the most advanced prosthetic money can buy. His IKO Creative Prosthetic System is aimed at unleashing the creative expression of those with missing limbs, and to do so he's enlisting every child's favorite building blocks. The result is an artificial limb where kids can swap robotic grippers for laser-shooting spaceships whenever the opportunity arises.
Amputees are all too common in Torres' homeland, where civil war has wreaked havoc and seen the huge buildup of landmines over the last half a century. Though non-profits like (Ingetral Center for Rehabilitation of Colombia) CIREC have been producing prostheses for children for more than 30 years, Torres believes injecting a little playtime into process can seriously aid in rehabilitation and help overcome the trauma of such life-changing events.
In arriving at the final design for his the IKO Prosthetic System, Torres conducted comprehensive research including interviews in Colombia with orthopedic technicians, clinical psychologists and occupational therapists. Taking this knowledge of the importance of a patient's social circles and how it impacts their self-esteem development, Torres then jetted off to the Lego Future Lab in Denmark, the toy company's mystical research and development lab. Here he tapped into the Lego brains trust and formulated a design to bring his ideas to life.
"During my time working in Lego Future lab I realized that you can pretty much can build anything you want with Lego," he explains to Gizmag. "But the key feature of the system for me, is that Lego sets are something you can build with friends and your family. Something that is that social made me think of one of the biggest challenge kids in disability have when facing society."
So with quite a bit of tinkering, Torres finally developed a functioning prototype of a prosthetic that lets kid use their imagination, and their family's, to build their own arm. The interface houses a battery, charging port, processor unit and a pair of myoelectric sensors that track the movement of the stump and convert it into a signal. A separate muscle component then receives these signals and, equipped with a motor and Lego connectors, carries different attachments on the end.
Torres then flew to Bogota to test out the design on an eight-year-old Colombian boy named Dario, who had suffered a congenital malformation and had his right arm amputated as a result. On the lighter side, one of the Lego sets Torres brought along was a spaceship fitted with a laser-imitating light brick. On the slightly more practical, but still awesome side was a construction backhoe, which required a power function compatible with the that of the muscle module.
Torres says the testing exceeded his expectations and he is starting the process of developing a commercial product. He was unable to give any hints on what such a system might cost, but says they are hopeful it will become available sometime between December 2016 and mid-2017.
You can see Dario put the prosthetic through its paces in the video below.
Source: Umeå Institute of Design