Intelligence and generosity aren’t always intertwined where people are concerned. Joel Gibbard, who earned his honors degree in Robotics from the University of Plymouth, has founded the Open Hand Project with a goal of making inexpensive, 3D-printed robotic hands available to anyone around the world. Once you’re done with this article, be sure and visit the Indiegogo page and give some serious thought to donating money. This isn’t some indie filmmaker, author, or artist wanting your money to make one of their projects come alive, though we find nothing wrong with that. Gibbard wants to make a real difference, and he’s doing it with the Dextrus.
An amputee or extreme hobbyist looking for a top-quality, robotically functional prosthetic hand will probably have to spend somewhere around $100,000, while Gibbard’s plans see the Dextrus costing no more than $1,000. (“Spend $5 so another person can save $99,000” would have been a good slogan here.) The hand will be composed of electric motors and cables instead of muscles and tendons, with 3D-printed pieces to substitute for bones, and it’s all coated in rubber, which acts as the skin. (Touch sensitive? No, but maybe one day.)
The Dextrus can be used with an existing prosthesis, and uses stick-on electrodes to communicate between muscles and the hand itself. (Look for this one to get mind control in the future.) The fingers are powered individually, which allows for the handling and grip of objects with unusual shapes.
Gibbard is planning on uploading all of his blueprints and designs for Dextrus as a free open-source project, so that anyone with an Internet connection will be able to download the plans and make their own hands themselves, eliminating the manufacturing middle man from the equation, although you can bet companies will be using the designs and upselling them after the fact. But even a $10,000 hand is 10 times cheaper than something comparable in today’s robotic prosthetic market. Maybe they’ll starting giving them really cool designs.
Gibbard is currently testing the project with Chef Liam Corbett, who, two years ago, lost his right hand to meningitis. “I would be proud to wear this,” Corbett says on the Indiegogo page. “It would make me feel more confident. I think it’s certainly going to enable me to do the finer things in life which I haven’t been able to do with the hook.” This is Corbett below.
A full prototype of the Dextrus has been built and funding would go towards perfecting the product in every way possible. Gibbard has been working with National Instruments, who have provided testing equipment for him to use.
He’s looking to raise £39,000 ($63,090), and has reached almost half of the goal with £14,198, but only 10 days are left. Check out the promo video below and get this man his money!