Google pledges $20 million to give 3D prosthetics a helping hand

The tech giant has promised substantial funding for firms using technology to help people cope with their disabilities.

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Google has promised to pour $20 million in funding in its non-profit Google.org arm to support nonprofits and charities using innovative technology to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

In a blog post written by Jacquelline Fuller, the Director of Google.org on Tuesday, the tech giant announced the launch of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities project. Google says the scheme is designed to support those living with disabilities, and in order to propel the development of technology which assists the disabled in their daily lives -- such as high-tech prosthetics -- the company plans to pour $20 million in funding research.

The Google Impact Challenge will seek out nonprofits and help them find new solutions to some serious "what ifs" for the disabled community, according to the blog post. The best of submitted ideas will be supported by the tech giant and given the chance to develop and scale up using the firm's resources.

To kick off the open call for ideas, Google has awarded funding to two companies which focus on reducing the cost of prosthetic limbs and auditory therapy, which could eventually improve access to these technologies worldwide.

The Enable community has been awarded $600,000 to further the cause of open-source, 3D prosthetic limbs. While traditional prosthetics can cost thousands of dollars to fit, assemble and purchase, R&D in 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the industry. As an example, last year 3D printed prosthetics were used to replace limbs lost by children caught in the Sudanese war for as little as $100. Google's funding will be used by the community -- which uses 3D printers to design, assemble and fit 3D prosthetics for free -- to advance the development of open-source 3D-printed upper-limb prosthetics.

In addition, World Wide Hearing has been awarded $500,000. The non-profit will develop a low-cost toolkit for diagnosing auditory problems using smartphone technology in the developing world and in low-income communities.

Fuller writes:

"Historically, people living with disabilities have relied on technologies that were often bulky, expensive, and limited to assisting with one or two specific tasks. But that's beginning to change. Thanks to groups like Enable and World Wide Hearing, and with tools like Liftware, we're starting to see the potential for technologies that can profoundly and affordably impact millions.

But we'll all get there sooner if we make it a team effort-which is why we're launching Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities today. Together, we can create a better world, faster."

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