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- I'm actually gonna use my arm so I can high-five so many people, 106.
- You're gonna high-five 106 people?
- Yeah.
- Aren't you gonna get tired?
- No, because my robo-arm's going to do all the work.
- Alex was born without a fully formed arm.
A condition that affects around 1,500 babies born in the U.S. every year.
I'm here to see him get fitted with a new arm.
We have come a long way in the development of prosthetic limbs.
You might think of the earliest prosthetic as maybe a peg-leg for a sailor, but it actually
dates back much further than that.
In fact, over 3,000 years ago to Ancient Egypt.
The thought was that our lives have a finite length, but that the after-life is eternal.
And according to the theology of Osiris, the body needed to be complete, because the soul
would leave the body, in theory, and every night, come back to replenish its energy in
the body.
And it was so important that that body be full.
And so there are many instances of prosthetic noses, ears, toes, and limbs, which were used
in Ancient Egypt to ensure that the body was complete.
But a lot of those prosthetics weren't actually functional.
So prosthetics developed from simply being aesthetic aids to actually becoming functional.
Globally, there are an estimated 3 million people living without an upper limb.
Over the last 10 to 20 years, we've seen remarkable advancement in the development of bionic limbs.
The problem with these prostheses, is they typically cost on the order of $20,000 to
$100,000.
Now, here at UCF, they're building an arm which can be used and manufactured for much,
much cheaper, like 1% of that cost.
How did you get inspired to design an arm for children?
- I was on my way to work, and I was listening to the radio, and there was an interview with
the person who developed the first 3D-printed hand.
And I went into my research lab and I said I have to be a part of this, what can I do
to help?
And then we had Alex's parents contact us directly saying, "Can you build our son an
arm?"
- The arm itself is completely 3D-printed and so are the joints between the fingers.
So there's a cable which runs down the length of each finger and back into the hand.
They would normally be connected up to this servo motor, here.
Now the idea is to trigger this motor via the arm of the person who's wearing it.
So they would wear three electrodes on their upper arm.
When the person wearing the arm squeezes their muscle, there's a little electrical pulse,
which triggers this motor to pull in 180 degrees.
One pulse will close the hand, like this, and then another pulse will relax it, so it
opens back up.
- Our arm provides a level of self-confidence to the children.
Whenever they're going to school there's questions asked, like "what happened to your arm?
Did you get bit by a shark or run over by a car or something?"
After we gave them the arm it quickly changed to "whoa, that's a cool arm!
How does it work?
Where did you get it?"
- I like to do stuff with my arm.
Like, pick up stuff, hold my paper when I'm drawin' I actually bring it to school so I
can actually do other stuff.
- 3D printing is relatively new technology but it provides us a low-cost solution to
be able to create things so we can print something out and say, it doesn't work, and just redesign
it and print it out again the next day.
We produce our arm for just about $300 now, whereas some of the prosthetics on the market
can go upwards of $40,000.
Insurance companies typically don't want to pay for it for kids because every six months,
they're going to have to replace it as the kid grows.
But this allows us to be able to reproduce an arm for about maybe $100 and just print
out a new one.
- How important is the aesthetic design, the artistic design of the arm?
- We thought kids just wanted to blend in, to feel normal, but we found it's much more
about personal identity and expression.
- We want to make sure the kid is expressing himself, or herself, with the arm.
Self expression for a kid is very important.
- We have one sleeve right here.
This one is actually themed around the Disney movie Tangled, we provided this for a little
girl named Madeline.
- The design is so simple that it is easy to print out on location and put together
even with very little technical knowledge.
And also the functionality of the design, with only three electrodes actuating the one
servo, make it so that people can learn to use it very quickly.
And that, I think, is what makes it so powerful.
- Think I'll have any luck there?
50/50?
- 50/50.
Alright!
- Look at that, I can give it to you.
- Yup.
- I'm really excited right now about trying it out, and how to do summersaults, and do
some things I've never done before.
I want to play video games with it and hug with two hands.
- How have you been able to crack this problem that other people haven't before?
- We have an incredible team of very diverse backgrounds.
And so bringing all of our common experience together, we were able to find this type of
solution.
Our main base is in Orlando, Florida at the University of Central Florida.
We have our designers in California, I'm here in Germany, and everywhere in between, we
have people trying to help us and support our project.
Although it's challenging, we're making it work.
- A lot of our communication comes through Microsoft OneNote, and we use this product
to be able to share information through each other, specifically since Albert is in Germany
so that's a whole ocean away.
- [Albert] I think the best part of OneNote is that you can edit it from anywhere in the
world and have it simultaneously update anyone else on the project.
So being able to get updates from my team and see the progress they're making, enables
me to help do my job here in Germany.
- What is the Collective Project?
- Microsoft is looking for students who are wanting to impact their community with great
ideas.
And they're looking to rally their communities and the world around them to help bring it
to life.
- Our biggest needs right now is one, we need funding.
We need more donations to be able to make this a reality and make these children's dreams
come true.
- You want to provide free arms to every kid who needs one.
- Absolutely, we don't feel like people should profit from a child without an arm.
- We're hoping for people that jump on board and help develop arms for their local area,
if they want to help with design, they're more than welcome to join our project and
be designing arms.
They can be printing our arms, and helping fit them for their local community, or they
can just send us advice on how to best tailor these for the future.
We can use all the help we can get.
- Where do you want to see the Limbitless Arm go?
- My hope for the future is to be able to increase the functionality of the arm to encompass
maybe an elbow or even an upper limb socket.
And then be able to produce this on a larger scale for as many children in the world who
need it.
- As each child comes to us, we really understand and appreciate the need for the readily adaptable,
readily deployable solution to each individual and unique biology.
- We're trying to get an elbow going for Alex so he has not only hand movement but he can
also move the elbow as well.
To overcome that we have to make this also bigger to be able to put another servo in
there.
We like ideas.
Not just, this is our way this is how it has to be.
Anything's possible.
We like to broaden our field as well.
- I think we're just at the beginning of something really great and I hope that with a little
bit of help we're going to be able to take this to the UN and UNICEF and really impact
children all over the world.
- Thank you guys for making this big project for me.
- That's fantastic, thank you so much for chatting with me.
- Thank you!
- Ah, haha, you're very welcome.
This video was supported by Microsoft OneNote.
In their Collective Project, they have identified student groups around the country who are
working together, using their software in order to change the world.
And the whole point of the Collective Project is to bring people together and you can get
involved as well by clicking on the link in the description, you could help by providing
new designs for arms, by helping with software or even 3D printing in your own community.
And that will help get more of these arms out to the kids who need them.
So, I really want you to get involved, check out the link in the description.