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Prosthetics have come a long way since the first known artificial limb - A wood and leather toe was created for an Egyptian noblewoman nearly 3,000 years ago. However, though they have certainly become increasingly sophisticated and nimble they remain extremely expensive, not to mention very industrial looking.
The combination makes the situation extremely hard for kids with disabilities. Even those that can afford the prosthetics are constantly explaining their condition to their peers. Now thanks to 3-D printing robotics firm Open Bionics and Disney, youngsters that need artificial arms will never have to be concerned about the cost or the look. That's because the two have teamed up to create 3-D printed superhero 'bionic' arms that are affordable, functional, and most important of all, super cool!
The offerings that include Ironman, Frozen, and Star Wars-inspired hands were developed in partnership with Disney's Accelerator Program that helps startups with products and technology. Working closely with a team of designers and technicians that created the special effects in the movies, Open Bionics built authentic looking prosthetics that are controlled by electric messages from the wearer's muscles.
The 3-D printed artificial limb is designed to provide the state-of-the art functionality that includes full range finger movement, something that is currently only available in expensive prosthetics. It also monitors the kid's muscle development and helps build up strength and dexterity. This alleviates the need for boring physical therapy. The best part is that the kid's progress can be observed in some neat ways.
For example, LED's mounted on the surface of the prosthetics light up to display the muscle signals being sent to the device by the user. This means that kid can look like a superhero, while the physician gets to observe his/her muscle strength in a non-intrusive manner.
If that is not enough to impress you how about this? The vibration motor on the Ironman arm serves two purposes. It quivers like a weapon recoiling when the user fires a "rocket" and provides feedback about the strength of his/her grip.
Open Bionics that is based in Bristol, UK, says that the three arms will be available by the end of 2016. The low-cost robotics company believes they will be able to price them at an affordable $500 -$1,000 USD. To help keep the cost as low as possible, Disney has waived all royalties. And for those that are too cool for superheroes, the company promises many more fun designs.
Resources: Metro.co.uk, Independent.co.uk,fastcoexist.com