“Pass me my spaceship” isn’t something you’d expect a child to say in regards to his or her prosthetic arm, but thanks to the new IKO Creative Prosthetic System from Umeå University in Sweden, life as an amputee just got a little bit brighter.
The system is compatible with both your average LEGO set and Mindstorms (LEGO’s DIY robotic line), allowing children to swap the prosthetic’s standard three-finger gripping attachment for one of their own creations.
IKO’s design is a departure from more complicated prostheses, like those relying on neural brain implants to connect mind and machine. But while tapping into brain power does give patients the best shot at a normal life, creator Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar explains that for kids, being “normal” isn’t always about having perfect physical function.
“Disabled kids’ needs are not always related to physical activity but often alternatively the social and psychological aspect. What if kids could make their own prosthetics and have fun at the same time?” he says. It’s a heartwarming sentiment shared by animator and mechanical designer Pat Starace, who created a prototype Iron Man-inspired prosthetic hand back in 2014.
Using IKO’s simple twist-and-lock mechanism, children can easily pop their prostheses in place without the help of an adult, which Tovar hopes will empower them along the way. From there, it’s a simple matter of building, taking apart, and building again. An arm can be a fully-functioning digger, a laser-shooting blaster, or a deep-sea science submersible. With IKO, the possibilities are as endless as the imagination.
“Playing makes sense to all of us,” says Tovar. “So why not build a bridge? It’s about learning. Creating. [And just] being kids.”
ALL IMAGES: Tovar, IKO Creative