When Carlos Torres started designing his IKO Creative Prosthetic System, he hoped to do more than create just another artificial limb. He wanted something that would excite kids and help combat the social isolation the disabled often suffer alongside their physical injuries. To that end, he created a functional prosthetic arm that doubles as a Lego toy-set.
“For kids with functional prostheses, they maybe have a harder time making friends and dealing with normal people,” says the Colombian designer. “I thought maybe I could help them engage with other people through the arm.”
His prototype has a three main sections: a base that fits around an arm stump and senses for its movements, a “muscle” that translates those signals into motorized movements, and then the attachments, which can either be a conventional “hand” or many of the toy systems the Danish company has to offer. In tests so far, Torres has attached GRIPP3R robots and a backhoe digger.
Torres worked on the idea while at Future Lab, Lego’s famous R&D center. He was inspired by the versatility of Lego as well as by the experience of growing up in Colombia, which has more than its fair share of child amputees. “I thought about the possibility of using Lego as a social tool and my first reference was Colombia,” he says.
Back in the country on holiday, he tested the design with the help of CIREC, which has long provided prostheses to land mine victims. And he says the experience was positive: It offered a bridge for disabled and able-bodied kids to play together. “The idea erases that line between disability and ability,” he says.
Torres now plans to make 10 to 15 new prototypes and present them at an event in December. He hopes that will lead to funding so he can commercialize the idea. He also is organizing a campaign with CIREC calling on every school-kid in Colombia to donate a piece of Lego for the project.
“There is a high chance that [the arm] doesn’t need to be that expensive,” he says. “The main thing to do is build awareness [so we can] get to the commercial stage.”