New Prosthetic Restores Sense Of Feeling

Medical technology appears in the news every few weeks, for all kinds of reasons, from being able to control them with a cap placed over your head to giving a man who was unable to walk the ability to do so again. The reasons for this constant stream of news is quite simple, medical technology is developing at an amazing rate, especially those related to giving back something to those who have suffered the loss of a body part or ability to do something with their body. The latest piece of news comes from DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), and it features a little more than a visible result.

Made under the DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics, the latest prosthetic has given someone the ability to feel again after their arm was paralysed due to a spinal cord injury almost a decade ago.

The DARPA project manager, Justin Sanchez, stated that:

“We’ve completed the circuit. Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements.”

In the first set of tests, the researchers touched the hands fingers gently while the volunteer was blindfolded. With nearly 100% accuracy he was able to report which mechanical finger was being touched, the description that he provided was that it was as if his own hand was being touched. At one point, in an impromptu experiment, the researchers decided to press two fingers instead of one, breaking any perceived order that could have been guessed, it was at this point where a joke was made in response asking if they were trying to play a trick on him.

With the ability to produce prosthetics at an ever decreasing cost, with even more functionality and now with actual control and feedback, we could soon be looking at prosthetics that are controlled and feeling just like the human body would.

Thank you DARPA for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of DARPA.

Robert Downey Jr. Gives Disabled Boy Prosthetic Iron Man Arm

Robert Downey Jr. helped a disabled boy to become a real-life Iron Man when he presented the child with a 3D printed prosthetic arm modelled after that of the Marvel superhero. Iron Man actor Downey Jr. was working with non-profit organisation Limbless Solutions to give young Alex Pring – who was born with a section of his right arm missing – the fully functional prosthetic.

Limbless Solutions uses engineering students from the University of Central Florida to create 3D-printed limbs for children, allowing for inexpensive production of prosthetics that kids quickly grow out of. Each limb costs around $350 in materials, and takes up to 50 hours to construct.

Seven-year-old Pring, a Transformers fan, also received an Optimus Prime arm from Limbless Solutions last Christmas.

Source: Engadget

Disabled Dog Gets New 3D-Printed Legs

A disabled dog has been given a new lease of life, thanks to a 3D printer. Derby the dog was born with crippled front legs and abandoned at a shelter. Luckily, Derby found a loving home, and his new owner just happened to be director of a 3D printing company.

Derby previously relied on a front-mounted wheelcart, but it proved impractical. His owner, Tara Anderson, and her team at 3D Systems embarked on a mission to design and produce prosthetic attachments to help Derby run and play with other dogs.

With his new legs, Derby runs 2 to 3 miles day and is said to be happier than ever.

Source: Gawker

Boy Receives 3D Printed Card Playing Prosthetic from e-NABLE

The team at e-NABLE have been working hard to help many people, mostly children, who require prosthetic devices. They’ve been custom making a multitude of prosthetics on a volunteer basis to allow people to do many things we take for granted. e-NABLE have created several models of 3D printed hands that have allow children to play games, throw and catch balls, pick up objects and more. Some of these children were just in need of replacements, lower-cost solutions or very specific solutions that allowed them the joys of using both hands.

The hands and arms they’ve created are all robotic, using mostly 3D printed parts that the volunteers crate for them after they receive the patients measurements, and in most cases the 3D printed solutions are working better than traditional prosthetic devices which often cost tens of thousands of dollars to receive.

Nancy messaged the team about her son Keegan, one of the users of their printed prosthetic hands which has enabled him the use of both hands to live a more involving life. However, the team are still making adjustments to the prosthetic and have even created a special card-playing hand for him so that he can play games like Uno, Go Fish and more with his friends. Before the adjustments, he had to keep his cards in a pile on the floor, sifting through them with one hand on each go, which was obviously frustrating for him. So his mother sent a request back to the team at e-NABLE.

“I was wondering if anyone has come up with a design so that the kids could hold cards,” asked Nancy to the volunteers of e-NABLE late last week. “Keegen always has a difficult time playing Uno, Go Fish and more because he can’t see all of his cards at once. He keeps them in a pile and has to look through it every turn. It would be really cool and functional.”

Shortly after she contacted them, the team responded.

“I would be glad to design something,” responded e-NABLE member Bob Roth. “This is the type of project that I want to help with. You could get him one of those circular card holders two and a half inches in diameter. you can fasten it to his socket and he could hold his cards in his hand. I’ve seen them in stores. you could fasten it with a Velcro strap”

A bit of hot glue, some velcro and a few hours later, Keegan can now play his favourite card games with his friends and family. It might not sound like a big change, but it’s great to see how quickly 3D printed prosthetics can be adapted to their users needs thanks to the way it was designed. Need longer fingers to operate a certain device, print longer fingers, print a baseball mitt hand, a analogue stick and controller grip hand, change the overall size as the child grows older, and all at a significantly reduced cost.

With over 1000 members now part of the e-NABLE group, this is just the start of something truly awesome.

Thank you 3DPrint for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of 3DPrint and e-NABLE.

New Prosthetic Hand Can Give Artificial Sense Of Touch

Not a year goes by without an incredible development in the field of prosthetics and as human technological ability grows, we are more able to meet the needs of others. Yet for all the developments that have aided people in mobility, there has been a distinct lack of sensation, as you can imagine the loss of a hand is one thing, but replacing it with a prosthetic isn’t enough to replace the sensations of touch that a real hand would provide, until now of course.

Chicago University researchers have detailed how a prosthetic limb that is capable of stimulating the brain with electrical signals could replicate the feelings of touch. The team has tested their work with monkeys, which were outfitted with electrodes that monitored the areas of the brain we associate with touch. This allowed them to replicate the signals generated when the monkey touched something. Pressure sensors on the prosthetic hand could then detect what information it needs to send to the brain, thus given the end user the sensation that they are holding, or touching an object.

“The algorithms to decipher motor signals have come quite a long way, where you can now control arms with seven degrees of freedom. It’s very sophisticated. But I think there’s a strong argument to be made that they will not be clinically viable until the sensory feedback is incorporated, when it is, the functionality of these limbs will increase substantially.” – Said Assistant Professor Sliman Bensmaia in a recent press release.

There is still a lot of work done before the system is capable of being used in the daily lives of humans, but as a proof of concept it is nothing short of incredible.

Thank you Gigoam for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gigoam.