When it comes to prosthetic limbs on children, one of the biggest challenges isn't teaching them how to use their new arm or leg properly. While children are incredibly adaptable and can take to a prosthetic device more easily than some adults, teaching them how to overcome the embarrassment or awkwardness that can come from interacting with other children who are uncomfortable around the technology can be a difficult process.
So a team led by Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar from Umeå University in Sweden decided to design a prosthetic arm that doubles as an awesome toy that both the wearer and their friends can play with. Named IKO, the device looks just like a regular prosthetic arm, except it's easy to use, with a twist-and-lock design that allows them to assemble it easily, and replace the regular three-finger hand with custom Lego creations.
"IKO is a creative prosthetic system designed for children to explore and empower their creativity in a playful, social, and friendly way," the designers say at their website. "What if kids could use their imagination to create their own tools according to their own needs? What if kids could make their own prosthetics and have fun at the same time? Learning. Creating. Being kids."
As Andrew Liszewski explains at Gizmodo, if the kid has access to Lego Mindstorms, which is a series of kits that give you the software and hardware you need to create customisable robots, the attachment can be manipulated just like a prosthetic hand. Watch the video below to see little Dario use a custom-made robot hand and a dump truck shovel like they were a part of his body.
"But movement isn't essential to the usefulness of the IKO," says Liszewski. "Kids love Lego because it helps them realise whatever they can imagine, and even if the laser blaster they've attached to the end of the arm doesn't fire, in a child's mind they will still feel like a super hero."
Nawww. How many of us didn't want a robot arm when we were kids? The hope is that by giving disabled kids the opportunity to turn their prosthetic arm into a game, they can get other kids involved and overcome any self-esteem issues related to feeling different and isolated. Imagine being friends with someone whose arm you could build a Lego spaceship on!
No word on how quickly this can be marketed, but it looks like it's still in the development phase right now. Hopefully the team gets the funding needed to make the technology widely available, because every disabled kid should look as happy as Dario in the video below.