We all know how creative Lego can be, and a prosthetic arm made from Lego that allows children to customise to suit their needs has won the grand Digital Innovation Prize at the Netexplo forum for digital technology in Paris.
Columbian designer Carlos Torres, a former intern at Lego’s Future Lab research department, created the arm to be compatible with Lego parts that can be customised with different shapes, colours and accessories. The designer wanted to help children in need of a prosthetic arm to feel less isolated, and make their disability less of a stigma or burden to them. The arm uses a combination of technology and imagination to help children overcome their handicap.
The Netexplo forum has been running for nine years, and explores innovation in digital technology via a network across 20 universities around the world. This year the event co-founder Thierry Happe said the Netexplo Observatory had identified some 2,175 digital inventions this year alone, so the Lego prosthetic arm had some stiff competition to beat, including strong contenders such as a mobile phone app that can translate the 11 official languages of South Africa, and a Japanese robot that got good enough grades in school exams to go to the University of Tokyo.
The Lego arm, officially named the IKO Creative Prosthetic System, went on to win the Grand Prix award at the digital technology summit Netexplo. The arm can fit Lego attachments, such as a remote-control digger, onto the battery-powered arm so kids can still enjoy playing in a wide variety of ways without the limitations of a regular prosthetic arm.
Creator Carlos Arturo Torres, hopes to secure investment for its development this year. He said in a press interview that he was very happy with his design, but wasn’t expecting to win the Grand Prix. While working at Lego, he came to realise how social toys can be. He hopes that his creation can help children to work together to design their own attachments.
Mr Torres estimates the prosthetic will sell for $5,000 (£3,500) with a fee of $1,000 for each 3D-printed sockets, bought as the wearer grows out of the old ones. Children’s charity Reach, said using cheaper materials in the construction of prosthetics made them far more affordable for children and easier to maintain.
Designed to be creative and fun, the customisable prosthetic arm has Lego accessories that can be added to play with, and can be customised with different colours as well as accessories, but the battery-powered prosthetic also has a functioning hand attachment too.
The new winner is in good company and is expected to go on to achieve great success, along with previous winners of the Netexplo awards include Twitter and Slack, the business messaging start-up.
Mr Torres also commented, “My idea was not to make a traditional prosthetic, but to propose a system that was flexible enough for kids to use, hack and create with by themselves and with their friends.” His design is sponsored by Lego Future Lab, whose input he said was crucial to the final product. “They really do know kids,” he went on to say about the award-winning toymaker.
The Netexplo forum organisers said the prosthetic arm shows how technology and imagination can help children overcome disabilities.