Lego boosts the confidence of children with artificial limbs with the help of Iko – a prosthetic arm that can be modified endlessly with Lego pieces. Children will be able to graft their favorite toys to the artificial limbs. The possibilities abound, from mechanical diggers to laser-firing spaceships; Iko can empower its wearer by adding creativity to the prosthetic limb.
The field of prosthetics has seen numerous developments in the last few years. Technology has relentlessly worked to ensure that prosthetic limbs become more viable. Harnessing new technology like 3D printing is one of its most recent advancements. It has given prosthetics the ability to look more beautiful and fashionable. Technology has also helped artificial limbs go waterproof.
Kids with artificial limbs often end up losing their confidence. Iko can help the children overcome the stigma of having an artificial limb attached to their body by adding creativity and the element of fun to the prosthetic limb.
The creator of Iko is a Chicago based Colombian designer, Carlos Arturo Torres. He created Iko during his six month internship in the esteemed Future Lab of Lego which is the experimental research department of the Danish toy company. While working at the labs of Lego, Torres found that Lego had the ability to foster social connections quickly. He then saw the potential to help prosthetic wearing children by enhancing their social standing with the help of limbs that could be modified with the help of Lego.
Torres explains that his design is meant for children between the age of three and twelve because this is the age which is crucial in building the self-esteem of the children. Torres brings a norm to light – “When a kid has a disability, he is not really aware of it until he faces the society. That’s when he has a super rough encounter.” This is undeniably, one of the darker sides of living in a society. Torres’ hackable limbs can give children the ability to face the society with more confidence.
Lego had sponsored Torres’ trip home to Bogota so that he can observe the prosthetic wearing patients at one of the rehabilitation centers – Cirec. At Cirec he met Dario who had lost his right forearm. Torres saw Dario draw a ten armed robot which Dario said, had a bionic eye. This gave Torres the push he needed to figure what Lego can do in the field of prosthetics.
Iko allows children to build the Lego creation that they want on a pop and lock connector terminal which is located on the forearm component. The base of Iko contains a battery, a processor and myoelectric sensors which detect muscle movement. It then transfers it to what is available on the end of the Iko arm. The battery can be charged through a charging station.
At this time, Torres works at IDEO which is a design consultancy in Chicago. His work on Iko continues with Circ’s help. Torres is planning to build 10 to 15 models which he can donate to children in Colombia. Torres is also in discussion with investors to commercialize Iko.
Torres says, “There were many problems I was trying to understand. The negative perception that kids have of prosthetics; the focus that companies put on engineering and not on the human part of a child; the social isolation felt by kids because of their condition and how hard it can be for them to build strong self-esteem. 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 by themselves and with their friends.”
Torres brings an element of fun to prosthetics and makes them look cool to the wearer. This is something that has been missing for a long time. While adults may learn to live with it, children find it extremely unwanted to live with a mechanical device fitted to one end of their arm. Iko is just the beginning to what can be a complete revamping of the looks of prosthetics and how they are perceived by the wearer as well as their friends and relatives. It suggests a world of cool augmented limbs for children who have to rely on prosthetics.