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With inspiration from the sea, rethinking the prosthetic arm

With inspiration from the sea, rethinking the prosthetic arm

Posting in Design

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]

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure