A teenager from Colorado in the U.S. has invented a low-cost robotic arm in his bedroom. Jim Drury reports.
Easton LaChappelle was 14 when he first started taking apart toasters. Five years on, he's being touted as a global leader in robotics, for his range of low-cost Anthromod robotic hands developed in his bedroom. Some can be controlled by a user's mind. SOUNDBITE (English): UNLIMITED TOMORROW FOUNDER AND ROBOTICIST, EASTON LACHAPPELLE, SAYING: "A good example is we actually had an amputee use the wireless brainwave headset to control a hand, and he was able to fluently control the robotic hand in right around about 10 minutes, so the learning curve is hardly a learning curve anymore." LaChappelle taught himself how to design, make and code his creations. Using a device that picks up on electrical impulses coming from the brain, he can manipulate his robotic hand's fingers. SOUNDBITE (English): UNLIMITED TOMORROW FOUNDER AND ROBOTICIST, EASTON LACHAPPELLE, SAYING: "We actually track patterns and try and convert that into movement. So with this I'm actually able to change grips, grip patterns, based on facial gestures, and then use the raw actual brainwaves and focus to actually close the hand or open the clamp or hand." LaChappelle's robotics aren't the first to be controlled by brainwave frequencies - scientists in Austria fitted a truck driver with something similar in 2010. But that's not where the magic ends. SOUNDBITE (English): UNLIMITED TOMORROW FOUNDER AND ROBOTICIST, EASTON LACHAPPELLE, SAYING: "3D printing allows you to create something that's human-like, something that's extremely customised, again for a very low cost, which for certain applications such as prosthetics, is a really big part of it." The hands cost as little as 600 dollars to make. LaChappelle wants others to use his work as a platform to create customised versions for themselves; he's made his software open source. That could eventually mean robots being sent in to control search and rescue missions, as well as improving the lives of amputees globally.