Superhero Bionic Limbs Offer Amputee Children a New Hope
Losing a limb isn’t easy for an adult, but for a child it can be even more devastating and carry a stigma of feeling incomplete. Luckily, children are now afforded unbelievable medical technology that has the ability to create lifelike – and even superhero-like – prosthetics that offer children a limb to replace the one they’ve been stripped of.
UK-based Open Bionics has teamed up with the Techstar Disney Accelerator program to develop superhero and princess-inspired bionic limbs for children who have lost them. The company has built the bionic limbs in an effort to help kids cope with the loss of a limb, and even get them excited about their new prosthesis. Having a new limb can obviously be very daunting for young children, and designs that borrow from Star Wars and Disney’s Frozen help ease the transition.
Through press release on their website, Open Bionics stated, “Now kids can get excited about their prosthetics. They won’t have to do boring physical therapy, they’ll train to become heroes. They’re not just getting medical devices, they’re getting bionic hands inspired by their favorite characters.”
So far the new bionic limbs have been an incredible hit with their new owners.
“Kids absolutely love them,” said robotics engineer Joel Gibbard, who has spent the past three months working with Disney technicians and designers at the entertainment giant’s Glendale campus. “They pick it up straight away. To them, the most exciting thing is the lights and the look of it, but once they start using it they start challenging themselves to pick up small objects and start stacking things.”
The prosthesis don’t just look like superhero limbs, but even function like their fictional inspirations. For example, with the Iron Man prosthetic, if the child fires a rocket the hand shudders like a recoiling weapon through a vibration motor. The motor can also communicate the strength of the child’s grip, offering feedback to the wearer and their parents.
The company was given $120,000 as part of the program to help fuel development of the new models. Plus, to help keep the prices down, Disney has provided royalty free licenses so that Open Bionics engineers are able to create the perfect bionic limb that encapsulates the aesthetics of the heroes their recipients love so much. According to Gibbard, it’s been an incredible success so far with even “several requests for the lightsaber from people who aren’t kids.”