Watch the video of Joel Gibbard’s talk at TEDxExeter 2014.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
Joel got into robots because he thought they were cool. His first robot was Clean3PO, which stumbled around his parents’ kitchen.
His favourite robots are those that are inspired by nature, which to many people are creepy. [I’m not going to look up at the video of an 8-legged overly-realistic robot.]
The most natural movement is in the human hand. Each hand has 29 bones, 34 muscles and 123 ligaments. Is it possible to replicate this robotically without necessarily replicating all these intricacies?
Joel built his first effort from stuff he found around the home, but he still managed to get some realistic movement.
When he studied robotics at university, he found that the options for amputees needing a prosthetic was limited, in terms of cost and functionality. He realised that what he was doing could change people’s lives. He wanted to get the latest technology to amputees at an affordable price.
His next hand was sheet aluminium, and chopped up rubber gloves for a nice touch. This attracted a lot of interest, so he made the design open source.
After a stint at an engineering company, he returned to the project and investigated the potential of 3D printing. He quit his job, bought a 3D printer, and moved back in with his parents(!) He could see the potential of 3D printing for both cheap and tailored production. His design uses free software all the way. His latest model can cope with being knocked about, and has smooth and natural movement. The video looks great, but the model he has on stage only has 2 working fingers. The leading prosthetic costs $18K. He plans to sell his for only $1K. For growing children, he can reprint only the parts that need to be replaced over time. Kids’ hands can be customised to look cool instead of awkward.
Joel has found his only limitation has been in his ambition. The next time you use your hands to do something, taken a moment to think about the complex intricacies. Technology has the power to mimic this freedom, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Here’s a Vine of “Dextrus hand closing and opening. Except for the pinky finger!” If you can’t view the embedded film, it’s available here.
Joel Gibbard lives in Bristol, UK. He was passionate about robotics from an early age and has always been fascinated by technology. In 2011 he achieved a first class honours degree in Robotics from the University of Plymouth, UK. This was in part due to his final year project in which he designed a low-cost prosthetic hand for upper limb amputees. This has now developed into the Open Hand Project; a crowd funded, open source initiative which aims to get amputees using these low-cost devices.
News about Joel Gibbard
Sorry for the bad pun, but we really want to celebrate the fact that Joel’s robotic hand for amputees has won the James Dyson Award.
Joel is the founder of the Open Hand Project, which makes robotic prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees, and its parent company Open Bionics, which 3D prints affordable superhero robotic hands.
He aims to start selling the prosthetics next year, intending to charge £2,000 for the device, including the cost of the fitting. This is roughly the same cost as the arms fitted with hooks currently on the market, whereas similar arms with controllable fingers are more like £20,000 to £60,000.
Furthermore, existing products take weeks or months to obtain. Joel can 3D-scan an amputee using a tablet equipped with a special sensor, 3D-print the parts in about 40 hours, and finally fit them together in a further two hours, giving them a custom-fitted socket and hand in less than two days.
We’ve got a bit of catching you up to do on Joel’s other news.
Back in May, he was at London’s 3D Print Show, as featured on the BBC News website. Watch the video from about 2:00.
And in October 2014, he was named British Young Design Engineer of the Year (pdf) at the British Engineering Excellence Awards. The Judges said: “A highly motivated, dedicated young engineer with multidisciplinary skills and an impressive record of achievement already.”
Many congratulations Joel!!