Mechanical engineers from Rice University in the US have built a ‘third arm’ that’s able to grab objects and experts say it could be very handy for people with disabilities.
The extra limb-as it’s been deemed by the George R. Brown School of Engineering- is completely powered by compressed air, attached to body around the waist and can pick up objects without needing the use of hands.
It’s grip-friendly and can lift up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg), which is something lead author Anoop Rajappan says people struggle to lift every day, even though that may be the weight of a baby or household object.
There are two components to the ‘arm’- a textile pump in the sole of the shoe and pneumatic actuators (a device that converts air into a mechanical motion). Assistant mechanical engineer Daniel Preston said they’ve tried to make it as comfortable as possible.
“The stiffness of the foam is about on par with a typical shoe insert. We wanted to make sure this felt like something you’d actually want to have inside of your shoe.”
According to Rice University it only cost about $20 to make the device but say they’re hopeful they could create a similar device for other medical issues.
“We’re also thinking about devices like pneumatic actuators that apply therapeutic compression for things like deep vein thrombosis, blood clots in the legs,” said Mr Rajappan.
“Anything that requires air pressure can be powered by our system.”
“This would include things like gloves that help people close their hands, assistance at both the elbow and shoulder joints and other devices that still rely on typically rigid and bulky power supplies that are either uncomfortable or require being tethered to external infrastructure.”
It was noted by Rice University that they are in consultation with the fashion industry to ensure that users of the device would be kept from looking like- what they say- as the Michelin Man.