With inspiration from the sea, rethinking the prosthetic arm

Summary:University of Washington student Kaylene Kau developed a biomimetic prosthetic arm that looks and functions much like a tentacle.

It's called biomimicry, and it's the imitation of nature -- the world's best designer -- to make a better, more functional product.

In response to a professor's challenge to "push the boundaries" of conventional upper-limb prosthetic design, University of Washington industrial design graduate Kaylene Kau developed this marine-inspired prosthesis that looks and functions much like a tentacle.

She writes:

Through extensive research I found that the prosthetic functioned as an assistant to the dominant functioning hand. The prosthetic needed to be both flexible and adjustable in order to accommodate a variety of different grips.

Instead of reconstructing a dominant arm, the final concept prioritizes a second arm's complementary functionality, touting an "adaptive grip" that approximates the fluid movement of a tentacle arm. (Doc Ock, look out.)

It's a neat approach to a biomedical engineering design challenge. The question is whether the world is ready for prostheses that don't look like what they're intended to replace.

[Inventor Spot via Dexigner]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation


Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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