The Titan Arm team was handed the Dyson Award, an annual international competition for university-level engineering students that challenges them simply to "design something that solves a problem." In addition to the $45,000 to continue work on their prototype, the students' department will receive $16,000 for rapid prototyping equipment.
The runners-up for the top prize were Hiroshi Yamaura's affordable and adaptable prosthetic hand called Handie, and a 3-D-printed plastic cast system from New Zealand called Cortex.
Health-related designs also took some of last year's awards. A re-adjustable prosthetic socket project was one of the runners-up to the SafetyNet system for safely releasing juvenile and non-targeted fish from nets.
Robots Learn to Reach, Touch Gently
Exoskeletons generally aren't covered by health insurance even though robotic devices have helped speed recovery for injured people. Physical therapists have used them to provide assistance or resistance to rebuild muscle. The repetitive movements also retrain the brain when there's been a spinal injury. Having an affordable option could be huge for many patients.
Next the student team plans to use 3-D printing to make arms that are customized to fit specific users. They ultimately hope to make the arm commercially available for less than $10,000. Even if hospitals and physical therapy centers don't spring for them, Titan Arms could be a boon for movers. Sure beats wheeling around a dolly.
Photos: The Titan Arm in action. Credit: James Dyson Foundation.