Cheyenne MacDonald | The Daily Mail | Source URL
A new lower-cost method for creating high-tech prosthetics aims to make the devices much more accessible to amputees around the world – especially children.
New York-based prosthetics company Unlimited Tomorrow unveiled its amazing 3D-printed prosthetic arm at CES this week.
The arm is equipped with muscle sensors and an artificially intelligent control system, which work together to give child amputees the ability to grip objects and move their fingers individually.
Typical high-tech prosthetics can cost a family tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, even with insurance considered, Ella Scarchilli, who does marketing for Arrow Electronics, told Dailymail.com at the Las Vegas tech show.
Unlimited Tomorrow’s device currently costs around $10,000.
And, the company is hoping to slash the cost in half within the year.
While the arms can be made to fit a diverse range of recipients, Unlimited Tomorrow focuses on creating kids’ prosthetics.
For child amputees and their families, the costs of prosthetics can be astronomical over time, as they must buy new artificial limbs as they grow.
The new 3D-scanning and printing system, however, means the cost of a single high-tech prosthetic could drop from upwards of $100,000 to just $5,000.
Unlimited Tomorrow’s light-weight prosthetic arm has an adaptive grip and finger dexterity, and the firm is continually making improvements based on direct feedback from the children currently testing it out.
‘We have advanced muscle sensors that are within the socket,’ Scarchilli told Dailymail.com. ‘You can flex your muscle and it reads that and turns it into an action for your fingers.’
‘We just put an AI control system within it, so that if you’re doing the same movements a lot daily – like drinking coffee, writing, etc – it’s going to automatically realize those movements and store it,’ Scarchilli said.
‘Then, it’s going to automatically do it.’
The system charges wirelessly and has a battery life of about three to four days, the company says.
It also provides haptic feedback, meaning wearers will feel it vibrate to simulate the sense of touch.
While similar prosthetics can weigh as much as 10 pounds, Unlimited Tomorrow’s limb weighs just 1.5lbs.
The arm can be built without needing a trip to the doctor’s office.
Since it relies on 3D scanning, ‘it can take the exact pigments of your skin and if you have discoloration, freckles, it can print just like that,’ Scarchilli said.
Since they’ll then have all of your precise measurements, the firm can go ahead and print it up.
And, the system is always getting better.
The team just recently finished its Indiegogo campaign, which allowed it to create 100 prosthetics for 100 amputees.
Using information provided to them by the people who are really using it, Unlimited Tomorrow is working to make its prosthetic as close to the real thing as possible.
‘We go straight to the consumer because we care what they want – it’s their arm, it’s not the new iPhone XS Max,’ Scarchilli told Dailymail.com.
The newest model on display at CES contained all of the edits from a girl named Zoe, who gave the firm a three-page letter of changes she was hoping to see made, according to Scarchilli.
‘That’s exactly what we want, because at the end of the day, we’re not amputees and we don’t know,’ Scarchilli said. ‘She wanted more movement in her wrist because it was very stiff, so the motors were transferred into the hand so she could move more.
‘She wanted nails that you can interchange between short and long, so these are magnetized so you can take them off and on – you can even get them painted, with UV and gel.’
‘We have really great technology,’ she added, ‘but we’re for the people.’