Nerds Unite: Prosthetics Inspired by Comics and Beyond!

Open Bionics is a company creating prosthetics inspired by heroines, heroes and the fictional worlds they live in. The designs emblazoned on their first set of bionic hands include ones drawn from Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, and Marvel’s Iron Man. The best thing about what they are doing is they offer you, dear reader, a chance to lend your own super powers of design and engineering. Open Bionics offers up 3D print files for several hand designs, hardware schematics and design files for their controller boards, firmware, and software to control the robotic hands with. Other than their website, you can also find all of the files and more on their GitHub account. If you’d like to devote a good amount of time and become a developer, they have a form to contact them through. To help with sourcing parts for your own build, they sell cables for tendons, muscle sensors, and fingertip grips in their online store

 We first came to learn about this company through a tipster [Dj Biohazard] who pointed to a post about their partnership with an 11-year-old Tilly, who is pictured on the left. Her bionic hand is an Open Bionics prototype whose design is based on the video game, Deus Ex. The best way products like these are improved are through the open source community and people like her.

Specific improvements Open Bionics state on their website are:

  • The customised bionic arms are manufactured in under 24 hours and the revolutionary socket adjusts as the child grows.
  • The bionic arms are light and small enough for those as young as eight.
  • The bionic arms use myoelectric skin sensors to detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.

Read more about Tilly’s story and her partnership with Open Bionic’s on Womanthology. Tilly seems to have a dream of her own to “make prosthetics a high fashion piece – something that amputees can be proud to wear.” 

We at Hackaday have written about several open source prosthetic developments such as a five-day event S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program taking place at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai and the work of [Nicholas Huchet]What superhuman inspired designs would you create? 

39 thoughts on “Nerds Unite: Prosthetics Inspired by Comics and Beyond!

  1. Robotic appendages as fashionable reminds me of a news story I read some time ago. A company that made robotic hands (I don’t recall who) talked about all the work they put into the silicone covering for their hands. The covers were painstakingly made to “pass” as a real hand. The cover is also important to provide grip, and protect the mechanisms from dust and other contaminants.

    Well, they were needing to service hands more often than expected. Turns out that a not-small number of wearers (mostly soldiers, they mentioned) were choosing to do without the painstakingly-detailed silicone cover for a very simple reason: they kind of liked having a robot hand. As a result, the company offered a much simpler clear silicone cover that did all the functional work while embracing the Robot Hand aesthetic.

    1. When people willingly undergoing amputations of otherwise healthy and functional limbs to “stump up” for designer limbs, we’re in for a fun time as a society.

      I suppose a hand with a USB HID interface that could function as a USB keyboard could be handy if I were ever to lose the ones I was born with, but somehow I’d soon find myself wanting the original flesh-and-blood ones back.

      1. Making replacement appendages attractive or fashionable and looking less like a prosthetic or “medical device” is just going to encourage limb loss, you mark my words!

          1. The spirit of Borgus Weems would seize control of someone’s hand, and write in Latin “Behold the hand of my avenger.” or dial (rotary) the telephone number of his killers.

      2. Amputation as a form of cosmetic body modification is a thing. It has been even since the days when a hook was the peak of functional prosthetics. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in most countries but that doesn’t stop it from happening.

        Personally I don’t really care. If other people want to make dumb decisions then that is other peoples’ problems. There are too many people out there hurting others to worry about the ones that hurt only themselves. But.. if this really is something that concerns you.. maybe it’s another argument for something I have been thinking for a while. Lets expand prosthetics research. Instead of just replacing ‘missing’ limbs how about adding extras? Personally I want 4 arms! I’ll keep my fleshy ones thank you but that still leaves numbers 3 and 4 waiting to be built! Someone who just really wants an artificial limb shouldn’t NEED to chop off their originals first.

        Eventually when I have mastered various forms of making.. currently I’m working on 3d printing, next up might be aluminum casting.. I want to start working on this. I’m not saying I will get anywhere.. but it sounds like a fun thing to try. I want to start looking at some of the open source replacement limb designs and start thinking about how modify, wear and control them to be useful as additional limbs to a person who already has a full set.

    2. I’ve seen highly realistic prosthesis in real life before, and I find it distracting. I end up paying way more attention than if it had just been an obvious prosthetic. When I see metal and plastic I think “cool, a robot hand” and go on with my life.

      And I’ve always been suspicious that subtly telling a kid “you must pretend to be whole” doesn’t do them any favors.

    1. Like the guy in Heinlein’s book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; he has with multiple hands for any maintenance or repair work he could be expected to perform.

  2. Years ago I read an article about a leatherworker who lost a hand. Insurance paid for an all the bells and whistles lifelike hand. The fancy hand was useless for his work. It couldn’t hold the hammers and punches. So he built a bunch of attachments to fit his stump so they’d directly mount to punches and other tools.

    His hombrew things were made with aluminum which was cold on his skin. Some prosthetics company got wind of it and made him a plastic socket and mounted quick connect fittings to his tools.

    With that he could work as well or better than holding tools with his hand. No problem with injuries if he missed with a hammer.

  3. Because that cripple can function in / make contributions to western society, where as the African (and middle eastern etc) people tend to use there health to bash each others scull in over tribal differences.

    And yes, I am generalizing. But I for one are not willing to help people that wont try to help themselves.

    1. Reminds me of an article I saw once where some news agency that had done apiece on prosthetic replacements but didn’t really put much research into it and used one of the Sarif Industries graphics from the game but had it attributed as a device currently in development. I guess it is technically true as there are companies working to produce similar devices in real life but the picture wasn’t attributed as such and had to release a clarification later to that effect.

  4. Tilly’s arm is a great prototype/test article to validate the control mechanisms. Now, just scale that up to industrial robot pressure realms (ie. several k-psi grip strength), and the potential applications increase.

    Having someone with “bionic” legs run 60 mph could certainly be a threshold to aim for. However what was depicted in the series of Steve Austin lifting an entire 3 ton truck off the ground – probably not happening (unless wearing a strong exoskeleton, since the human spine would snap – even if the arms could tolerate the loading).

    1. No, that would be a very bad threshold to aim for. Have you considered what happens when one trips or runs into something at those speeds? Your idea of a prosthetic arm with industrial-robot like pressures suffers from a similar problem.

  5. Awesome, way to own that artificial limb.

    I think a lot of people try to hide the things that make them physically different. Maybe some day we will have truly lifelike prosthesis and for those that chose it that will be cool. Meanwhile the best efforts at being lifelike usually fall right into the middle of the uncanny valley. In other words.. would you rather look like a comic book character or would you rather look like something from an adult toy store? Yeah, the question doesn’t take much thought when put that way does it? Please… choose the comic book character!

  6. Why spend money on fashion instead of feeding the hungry in Africa?
    Why design new cars instead of feeding the hungry in Africa?
    Why make new cellphones instead of feeding the hungry in Africa?

    Because the world is a complicated place and we cant just focus on one sole problem. So If you want to get all angry abotu money not being spent properly in society dont take it out on the people trying to regain some semblance of normal function in their everyday life. If you really need to blame someone, go hate on the bullshit luxuries that perfectly normal people demand instead of going after a group of people just looking to be whole again.

  7. Because most (all?) of the famine in the past 150 years has been the result of politics. The Irish Potato Famine is a great example, but so were the Campuchea, Biafra (sp?) and Ethiopian famines of the past 50 years.

    And if present technology could fix [stupid, politics] then I’m sure famine could be exterminated.

  8. Oh neat. You guys are starting to delete innocuous comments now! Fantastic. Way to adopt progressive dogma!

    Doesn’t change the fact that “Art” doesn’t belong in the S.T.E.M. abbreviation.

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