Lego prosthetic arm for kids, built by kids

16 Jul 2015

Image of the IKO Lego prosthetic arm modelled by Dario via Carlos Arturo Torres

Children who find themselves missing limbs are often given prosthetic ones to replace flesh and blood, but what if a child could build and design their own Lego prosthetic arm?

Called IKO, the Lego prosthetic arm is a joint project between Colombian rehabilitation clinic CIREC and Lego’s Future Lab based in its native Denmark.

According to the project’s explanation page, the IKO’s aims is to give power back to the children who have for whatever reason lost the function in one of their arms and give confidence back to themselves with their own self-designed arm.

While now a joint effort, the original concept for the IKO came from design student Carlos Arturo Torres who, for his concept and design, was awarded a 2015 Core77 Design Award.

Speaking of why he felt that this project was necessary, Torres said he believes that traditional prosthetics instil in children a negative connotation, while prosthetic producers are too focused on the engineering aspect, rather than the human aspect.

“My idea was not to make a traditional prosthetic, but to propose a system that was flexible enough for kids to use, hack and create with by themselves and with their friends,” Torres said.

In terms of what actually drives the robotic capabilities of the arm, it uses Lego’s processing unit and engine for its robotics division called Mindstorms, with several tubes surrounding the base model for the child to personalise to their needs.

So far the IKO Lego prosthetic arm is in a prototype stage, having been given to a Colombian child called Dario who received help from CIREC to develop his own arm, which, from the promotional video, appears to have been something of a success.

As for why Lego was chosen, Torres says it was simply because of its association with children: “Using the Lego system was part of this solution, not just because of its creative content, but most of it its social feature; this is a toy that gathers people around with a single goal: the pride of creation, but in this scenario I found that it transcends to a higher level.”

Lego prosthetic arm IKO

Dario demonstrates the prosthetic arm. Photo: Carlos Arturo Torres

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic