With inspiration from the sea, rethinking the prosthetic arm

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