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Bristol company Open Bionics unveils Iron Man, Frozen and Star Wars bionic hands for children

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Written by: Gavin Thompson | Posted 10 October 2015 16:54

Bristol company Open Bionics unveils Iron Man, Frozen and Star Wars bionic hands for children
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A Bristol company is creating amazing bionic hands for amputees inspired by Marvel, Frozen and Star Wars characters.

It means child amputees or those born with hands can be the coolest kids in class, thanks to Open Bionics which has signed a world-first deal with Disney.

The first prototypes are the Iron Man hand, LightSabre hand and the Snowflake hand, inspired by Queen Elsa from Frozen.

Open Bionics, based at the Bristol Robotics Lab at the UWE Frenchay campus has been working on ground-breaking robotics hands for amputees with the goal of dramatically cutting the cost of high quality limbs by using 3D scanning and printing techniques.

The company, which is staffed by just a handful of people, recently won a place on Disney backed Tech Stars scheme, which picks a small number of tech companies and gives them three months of intensive mentoring and support out in California.

And clearly they’ve made some good contacts, resulting in the landmark Disney deal.

Chief operating officer Samantha Payne said: “We’ve spent a year developing hands for adult amputees and something that struck us nearly every time we spoke with an older amputee was just how much of a social stigma they faced growing up.

“We’re now living in a society where we can embrace our differences and we like being unique.

“It’s really important for us to encourage young people with limb differences to see themselves as cool.

“They’re not lacking anything, they just have a difference. So we’re making bionic hands to celebrate those differences. We’re making prosthetics cool.”

The team has used their time in the Disney programme productively, to develop the first child versions.

“We’ve spent the last three months working on hands for children and developed two wearable prototypes,” said Samantha.

“The kids loved them. We fitted a 10-year-old boy called Logan, and a 12-year-old girl called Sydney, both children born without hands.

“It was amazing to see how quick Logan responded to the device. He was controlling the fingers and changing the different grip modes with ease. It was very promising and the first time Open Bionics has fitted a child.

“We 3D scanned his left hand and 3D printed him a right hand based on the size of his left. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a bionic hand made that is so proportional to the wearer.

“We’re now focused on furthering the development of these hands, so we can release children’s and adult’s hands next year.”

Open Bionics has now graduated from the Tech Stars Disney Accelerator.

Samantha added: “We’re very lucky to have received world-class mentoring and business coaching as part of this accelerator programme.”

Disney owns both Marvel and Lucasfilm, and Open Bionics has secured the royalty free licence to produce bionic hands based on characters from Marvel, Star Wars and the smash hit animated film Frozen. 

To give an idea of the popularity of the brands, the latest Marvel film Avengers: Age of Ultron which featured Iron Man has made so far $1.4 billion while Frozen is not far behind at $1.2 billion.

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