If there's one toy that crosses all countries, cultures, age groups and genders, it's Lego. That's why it's so perfect that the Danish bricks will soon be able to be built onto children's prosthetic limbs – and build up their self-confidence at the same time.
Carlos Arturo Torres, a Colombian designer attending Umeå University in Sweden, recently won a student "open design" prize at the 2015 Core77 Design Awards for his IKO Creative Prosthetic System.
In the project abstract, Torres wondered "what if kids could use their imagination to create their own tools according to their own needs; disabled kids needs are not always related to physical activity but often alternatively the social and psychological aspect; what if kids could make their own prosthetics and have fun at the same time?"
Created in collaboration with Lego's Future Lab and CIREC, a Colombian physical rehab foundation, IKO uses the familiar modular system to allow children with prosthetic limbs to transform the practical into the fantastical. So rather than fingers, they can replace their missing hand with a spaceship, a digger, a laser or even a Lego pirate hook.
Even cooler is that the limb is compatible with the robotics line, Lego Mindstorms, meaning the kids can actually program their new robot arms to do tasks.
"There had to be a right balance between a playful experience and something functional," Torres told The Guardian. "Something that could allow kids to explore their creativity, something they could be proud of. Sometimes a functional element is everything they need – but at other times it might be a spaceship, a doll's house, a telescope, a video game controller or a swim fin."
The project emerged from Torres' realization that a fundamental problem with prosthetics for kids was that the focus on engineering ignored the resultant negative issues of social isolation and self-esteem. "My idea was not to make a traditional prosthetic, but to propose a system that was flexible enough for kids to use, hack and create by themselves and with their friends."
Torres hopes other toy makers like Marvel, Mattel and Hasbro will become, er, attached to the project.
Oh, and if you still doubt that this would mean everything to kids with prosthetics, Metro UK's GIF is worth a thousand words:
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