If there’s one thing children all over the world can agree on, it’s that few things excite and affect them as much as setting eyes on a new set of Legos. These iconic building blocks bring out a kid’s inner architect and elicit more joy than running through a sprinkler on a hot day. Understanding this as one of a child’s greatest sources of happiness, Colombian designer Carlos Torres devised a prototype prosthetic arm which gives amputee children the same opportunity to explore their Lego creativity in a unique new way.
Called the IKO Creative Prosthetic System, Torres’ design allows children to easily swap out attachments at the end of their prosthetic arms with things like Lego grabbers, Lego spaceships, or any custom Lego design. From the start, Torres’ goal was to give amputee children the ability to create their own prosthetics while exploring their creative imagination in an enjoyable way.
“What if kids could use their imagination to create their tools according to their own needs,” Torres says on his website, “disabled kids’ needs are not always related to physical activity but often alternatively the social and psychological aspect.”
During the design process, Torres worked closely with occupational therapists and clinical psychologists to determine the factors impacting a patient’s self-esteem. Armed with this crucial research, he then traveled to Denmark to work with Lego itself at its Lego Future Lab. While there, Torres partnered with the company’s engineers to help bring his unique idea to life.
“During my time working at the Lego Future Lab I realized that you can pretty much build anything you want with Lego,” Torres told Gizmag in an interview, “but the key feature of the system for me is that Lego sets are something you can build with friends and your family.”
Under the hood, the IKO Creative Prosthetic System has the ability to track any movement from the stump of an arm using myoelectric sensors. These sensors send signals to the prosthetic’s motor, telling it how to move the arm or any of the Lego attachments fixed at the end. To test out the design, Torres visited an eight-year-old Colombian amputee named Dario who put the rig through a series of tests — i.e. shot his friend with Lego lasers, picked objects up with a Lego backhoe, etc. Due to Dario’s immense infatuation with the device, Torres intends to begin commercial production of the prosthetic soon, with hopes of it reaching the market by the end of 2016.