Educational robotics: the robots are kids stuff
Schools are now introducing the basic principles of robotics to children at a very early age.
The prosthesis, intended for users lacking access to a power grid, will improve the lives of those who have lost some of their limbs.
One of the most successful applications of 3D printing has been the manufacture of customized prostheses at a reduced cost. Many of these, however, are devices with reduced functionalities that lack active mobility. Now a Tunisian startup seeks to overcome these limitations thanks to a much more versatile prototype that is powered by renewable electricity and uses artificial intelligence software to interpret the signals emitted by the user's muscles. This artificial hand features various joints that enable finger and thumb or wrist movements by means of electrical impulses.
Designed as a support tool for users in developing countries, the bionic hand includes a wireless charging system and solar panels that allow it to be used without relying on access to a power grid. This approach boosts the independence and autonomy of users, who will be able to recharge the device anywhere.
To date, one of the main stumbling blocks of advanced prostheses is their high cost, which can run into tens of thousands of euros. Fortunately, this team of entrepreneurs has managed to reduce it to a price range between two and three thousand euros.
In order to reduce these costs, the development team has adopted a modular philosophy for their innovative technology project. If any of the parts are damaged, they can be easily replaced. Similarly, as the user grows in height, it is possible to replace them with larger ones that fit better. This aspect is of great importance, since the advanced prostheses on the market, in addition to being very expensive, have a very short useful life. In a few years, a child's body has changed so much that a completely new one must be purchased. The company detected this problem when a relative of one of the team members was born without a hand and the parents could not afford a prosthesis with such a short lifespan.
Losing a limb in childhood is a traumatic experience and learning to manage without it is a laborious and often boring process. Practicing over and over again such simple actions as opening a jar of jam requires great attention and tenacity. That is why the developers of this bionic hand have resorted to gamification techniques. That is, they have been inspired by the mechanics of video games to make the process much more enjoyable.
Thus, they have developed a virtual reality software called VREHAB that allows children to carry out actions such as climbing buildings in the style of Spiderman. As they improve their skills, they get more points in the program. In addition, therapists responsible for rehabilitation can track their activities online and monitor their progress.
The software developed by the startup is not the only playful element. Thanks to the use of 3D printing, it is possible to customize each prosthesis with designs that mimic the aesthetics of a superhero, in the case of children, or even turn them into fashion accessories for teenagers and young adults.
If you want to learn about the possibilities of the new generation of prostheses, you can take a look at this article about 3D printing in the field of biomedicine.