Bristol-based Open Bionics plans to market the first $1,000 robotic prosthetic hand, dramatically reducing the cost for amputees. Chris Goodfellow meets founder Joel Gibbard to find out more.
Open Bionics was launched with the goal of making robotic prosthetics affordable and accessible to the masses.
This means targeting a $1,000 (£670) price point for custom fitted electronic prosthetics that currently retail at between £20,000 and £60,000.
The project’s genesis happened when Open Bionics founder Joel Gibbard was still in school. The 17-year-old roboticist hit upon a curious notion when looking through his notebook for the next big project; he couldn’t build anything if he lost his hands.
"I wouldn't be able to pick up a soldering iron, I wouldn't be able to use tools and so I thought I’d make a robot hand first should that problem ever arise,” Gibbard remembers. "It was a really stupid and ill-thought-out initial idea, but that was the driving force for the first time I made one."
Gibbard made a fully functioning prototype that could be used by an amputee as part of his final-year university project and returned to the idea to launch the Open Hand Project several years after graduating.
The plan was to create prosthetics designs that anybody could download and 3D print to produce dexterous, robotic hands, which had comparable functionality to leading robotic prosthetic hands at one hundredth of the cost.