This custom 3D printed prosthetic arm is designed specifically for playing cello

carnegie mellon 3d printed prosthetics 8e3f53f3 e0fd 4d48 b124 c58ef263bcc4
Carnegie Mellon University’s “assistive technologies” project is what would happen if a more socially minded MacGyver got his hands on a 3D printer.

Created by a pioneering research team at CMU’s School of Computer Science, the project’s goal is to build life-changing prosthetics for people in need — and to do it more cheaply than would have been possible before.

Recently, the team used its considerable expertise to create a prosthesis allowing a would-be cello player with only one arm to play his instrument of choice. Thanks to the tool they built, the Pittsburgh-based budding musician was able to play at his grade school recital.

The cello-playing arm had a couple of major benefits over a traditional prosthesis. One is that it allowed for more fine-grain movement than had been possible using their previous, non-3D printed prosthesis. This is because 3D printing makes iterative design easier, so that designs and prototypes can be endlessly tweaked to ensure they can carry out the task at hand. (No pun intended!)

The second benefit is that it is considerably cheaper. A professionally manufactured prosthetic hand can cost in the region of $6,000 to $10,000, which puts it out of reach for many users. 3D printing, however, can make such solutions affordable — which is why CMU has been able to help upward of 1,500 people since it started its project in 2013.

The lab has not drawn the line at cello-based prosthetics, either.

“[We’ve designed] prosthetic devices for [various] specific tasks: For example, playing the cello, operating a hand-cycle, and using a table knife,” Jennifer Mankoff, a professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, told Digital Trends. “By creating task-specific solutions, customized to the needs of the person and a task they care about, we believe it is possible to improve the retention of prosthetic devices. When a prosthetic does not fit the needs of its user well, it is likely to be abandoned. We believe that one way to reduce this is to make more task-specific solutions.”

As for what’s next for CMU’s project, Mankoff says the goal is to continue making the process smarter.

“We are working to develop technologies for tracking use over time so we can discover how 3D-printed prosthetic devices are used, and what opportunities exist to improve their adoption and reduce abandonment,” she said. “We are also working on new materials and new ways of printing that can increase comfort and support new types of interactive devices.”

Gaming

How doctors are fighting Alzheimer’s with a cleverly designed VR game

After three years, the mobile game Sea Hero Quest has generated millions of hours worth of data that could help researchers find the next step in how we diagnose and understand dementia and Alzheimer's.
Gaming

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch's portability makes indies feel at home on the platform. Luckily, there are plenty of great titles to choose from. Here are our picks for the best Nintendo Switch indie games.
Computing

Exclusive: How Alienware dared to ditch black, boxy designs for something radical

A new gaming Legend is born this year. Alienware unveiled its new Aurora R9 desktop with the Legend design language. Join us as Alienware designers talk about Legend was conceived and what the new design means for gaming.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.
Emerging Tech

Wreckage, reefs, and robots: The high-tech quest to find Amelia Earhart’s plane

Over 80 years ago, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared while trying to fly around the world. Now an autonomous water-based robot could help find some answers. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s satellite projects will study the sun using solar sailing

Small satellites can be used for all sorts of purposes, and NASA has been searching for ideas to push ahead the capabilities of the hardware. The agency has announced two new projects to demonstrate the potential of small satellites.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures a beautiful cosmic jellyfish made of glowing gas

A new image from Hubble might look like a deep-space jellyfish, but it's not a sign of extraterrestrial life - in fact, it's a planetary nebula called NGC 2022, located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe makes a second orbit of the sun, captures solar wind on video

The Parker Solar Probe, launched last year, has completed its second orbit around the sun. To celebrate, the team responsible for the probe has released a video showing solar winds in action.
Cars

Starman on Tesla Roadster makes first orbit around sun, braces for loneliness

Starman and his Tesla Roadster, sent by SpaceX to outer space last year, have completed their first orbit around the sun. The people on Earth may be able to catch a glimpse of the cherry-red electric vehicle on November 2020.
Emerging Tech

Bernie Sanders calls for a ban on police use of facial recognition

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for a complete ban on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement as part of the new criminal justice reform plan he introduced this weekend.
Emerging Tech

On the fence about buying solar panels? Tesla now offers them for rent

With solar rental Tesla says “customers get the best from solar power — clean, cheap energy to power homes and vehicles — without upfront costs or decades-long agreements. In fact, customers can get solar power with one click, instead…
Emerging Tech

Autonomous robot deliveries are coming to 100 university campuses in the U.S.

Autonomous robot company Starship Technologies has announced that it will expand its food delivery services to 100 university campuses around the United States over the next 24 months.