Three Thumbs, Way, Way Up!

At least one in their lives — or several times a day — everyone has wished they had a third hand to help them with a given task. Adding a mechanical extra arm to one’s outfit is a big step, so it might make sense to smart small, and first add an extra thumb to your hand.

This is not a prosthetic in the traditional sense, but a wearable human augmentation envisioned by [Dani Clode], a master’s student at London’s Royal College of Art. The thumb is 3D-printed out of Ninjaflex and mounted to a printed brace which slides over the hand. One servo rotates the thumb, and a second pulls it closed using a bowden cable system — not unlike that of a bicycle brake. Control of the thumb is achieved by pressure sensors in the wearer’s shoes, linked via Bluetooth to a wristband hosting the servos and the electronics. We already use our hands and feet in conjunction, so why not capitalize on this intuitive link?

The main thrust of this project is to expand human ability and expression: in the same way that a pair of glasses can express individual character while their capacity as a medical device takes a secondary role, [Clode] hopes that her third thumb will have an aesthetic component alongside broadening our capacity as humans. This isn’t to say that traditional prosthetics cannot be works of art in and of themselves.

[Thanks for the tip, Sophi!]

58 thoughts on “Three Thumbs, Way, Way Up!

    1. Went to Catholic school for 12 years, never once was told evolution wasn’t real or augmenting human abilities (as virtually all forms of technology do) was “wrong.” Nor did I once meet a Catholic who did. But nice of you to make ignorant, unfair generalizations. Very progressive.

      1. It sounds like you are part of the minority in your experiences. I mean according to history those generalizations are 100% correct, Galileo was put under house arrest for 9 years (he was put under house arrest for life but died 9 years after the trial) for coming up with the theory that the sun was actually the center of our solar system instead of the earth,

        1. Those generalizations are incorrect, historical or otherwise. Climate change denial, evolution denial etc. are almost completely protestant ideas that Catholic church had nothing to do with.

          On the other hand:
          Gregor Mendel – Father of Genetics and discoverer of heredity – Catholic monk
          George Lemaitre – Original proponent of Big Bang theory – Catholic priest
          Nicolaus Copernicus – No need for introduction – Catholic
          William Occam/Blaise Pascal/Pierre de Fermat/René Descartes – Take a guess.

          As for Galileo, he was punished for insulting the Pope rather than for his (at the time unproven) hypothesis.

    2. That sounds more like something a fringe born-again revisionist protestant would do. Catholics are generally pro science and pro progress except when it comes to contraceptives and abortion.

  1. That’s quiet neat.

    Neural control would be another step but that whole field I think still needs a bit of work.

    We do often look at prosthetics as replacing a missing limb but seldom do e see it as augmentation but it really is just like another tool to perform a job.

    1. The entire reason I’m currently finishing my EE degree and trying to work in robotic prosthetics is because I want a third arm.

      double thumbs is totally also on my list too.

  2. Since a crash at sky when I was young, I can no more use my thumbs correctly … I though about reinforcing them with 3D printed parts … but this genius idea could be the clue … I gonna buy some flexible filament and try to make myself two new working / replaceable thumbs !
    Thanks HaD for pointing this ;)

  3. The Dozenal Societies will finally get the respect that has eluded them for over 70 years. I’ll bet you didn’t realize they managed to sneak ↊ and ↋ into Unicode a couple years ago. Before you know it they’ll be rewriting textbooks and teaching Duodecimal in schools.

    Now, get off my lawn!

    1. A buddy of mine growing up, who happened to be born on Halloween, was born with 6 fingers.

      If this becomes the new trend he is going to be pissed that they removed his extra digit when he was a baby!

  4. Agreed, pretty cool. One nit: it’s not really a 3rd thumb. It’s more like a 9th non-thumb finger. The magic of the thumb is that it can act in opposition to the other fingers. This doesn’t, as far as I can tell from watching the video and doing no further research. But “3rd thumb” is a great name, nonetheless.

  5. a few possible applications
    -hitting Ctrl without getting “emacs pinky”
    -supporting my the bottom of oversized smartphone instead of using my pinky
    -MGS CQC with knife and pistol held together

  6. Want to see prosthetics that are more than simply functional? Look up Viktoria Modesta. Her lower left leg was damaged when she was born in 1987. In 2007 she had it amputated so she could get around better with prosthetic legs.

    She was in the second episode of the 3rd season of “Killjoys”. Some of her music was used in the episode as were many of her fancy prosthetic legs.

    Many other amputees and people with missing or deformed limbs appeared in the episode as “hackmods”. If you want to have a cyborg that’s had limbs and other parts replaced with robot parts, it’s much easier if the actor actually is missing body parts. The bartender who is missing parts of both arms and looks like his face was partly burned off really is missing parts of both arms and got his face badly burned.

    1. Thanks for that information. While watching the KillJoys episode I was assuming it is all just special effects and makeup/costume. The bartenders face looks really badly distorted and I was wondering why they went with that look in the first place.

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