The trend to a physical device model in open source design (see BusinessWeek article) has been tepid. Projects like Thinkcycle are one way to go. Recently, I ran into the The Open Prosthetic Project. It is one of the most interesting ideas I have run into in a long time. Wired magazine wrote about them a while back
Founded last year, the nonprofit Open Prosthetics Project applies the ethical and intellectual property foundation of open-source software to the task of building better artificial limbs. The project releases its experimental designs to its website in the public domain, free for anyone to use, forever. Anyone can download the STL files, tinker with them in CAD software, and submit them to a rapid manufacturer, such as a prototyping 3-D printing company.
This lets anyone turn out a customized prosthetic device without incurring tens of thousands of dollars in production costs. A user with a few hundred dollars to spend can be holding the physical reality within a week, though the post processing would still require some expertise...
Open Prosthetics' experimental design incorporates both modes in one hook, using a pin/spring/cam set-up controlled by the intensity of the wearer's shrug: A limited shrug momentarily opens or closes the hook, just like the traditional design, while a full shrug acts as a toggle, reversing the hook from open to closed, or visa versa, and leaving it there until the next actuation.
They've built and rebuilt two versions of this positional hook, and they have a working prototype of the entire limb made from LEGO Technic parts. (This video demonstrates the strength difference of the two modes in picking up a small object.)
and in the same project, an inspiring story of a father who made a prosthetic fishing rod for his son:
Man makes prosthetic fishing rod for son
Robert Haag has put together an amazing Spiderman fishing pole / prosthetic arm for his young son. It's part of the "Open Prosthetics Project," which aims to share ideas and inventions for prosthetic devices. Link | Video of kid practicing with the rod
Some thought provokers:
Applications include, of course, war veterans and civilian victims. For developing countries, given the high amount of manual labor involved in many jobs, what types of tools can be attached to a prosthetic that gives that person newfound ways to earn a living?
Spray paint cans
Watering and planting tools?