@kellerbl: It sounds like there will be some great opportunities for your grandson and isn't he lucky to have a granddad that is so up on the technology to pose some suggestions. The team that developed the WREX is Dr. Tariq Rahman and designer Whitney Sample--both from the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilimington, Del. (Don't know where your grandson is)
I can see that it would be great to work in this field. I have a 4 year old grandson born without one arm - not even a shoulder. I have wondered if it would be possible to fit him with a wrap-around vest that a prosthetic arm could be attached to. The hand on his one arm has only a thumb and two stubby half fingers. This handicap is apparently due to his arm and hand being pinched off during development by the amniotic membrane. He is a very happy child who doesn't yet recognize he is so different from others and he naturally uses his feet when one hand can't complete a task. He may never need a prosthetic to get through life, but it would be something worth checking into.
With prices on 3D printers coming down and with materials and other related technologies vastly improving, I do think capabilities like these will become easier and more accessible to mainstream medical practices, aiding in their adoption.
@Greg: That's actually a point I didn't spend time on in the post, but a real lifesaver for Emma's parents. There is obviously wear and tear on the device, particularly as Emma gains in mobility. With the 3D printing approach, her parents can simply contact the research/medical team and explain what part is broken (take a picture if need be) and a replacement can be easily and cheaply produced. Minimal downtime, which is a great thing for Emma.
Rob: Magic arms is actually just a pet name she gave to the prosthetic device that helps her now have control over her arms to do everyday things like play and feed herself. It is more of a term of endearment to show her enthusiasm for new mobility.
It's great to see these types of advances taking place. Just in the same way that high performance cars eventually see their developments embodied in the consumer versions - I hope that these techniques eventually become available to the average consumer. What a boon to veterans, the disabled and the aging.
What a wonderful story. If Oscar Pistorius' performance in the Olympics taught us anything, it's that prosthetic limbs needn't be a handicap. I really do believe that technology will eliminate all disabilities by the end of this century.
Yes, I also agree. An inspiring story about Emma that really drives home the point on how technology breakthroughs can have such a positive impact on people's lives. Since the cost of 3D printing has come down so much, I imagine that new arms could also be printed again should the current ones wear out or become damaged.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.