Two Kenyan inventors have created what is said to be the world’s first bio-robotic arm operated by brain signals. The invention, which is controlled by brain signals, has been billed as a game-changer in the lives of disabled people in Kenya.
David Gathu and Moses Kinyua’s invention differs from most prosthetic technology which is powered by a person’s muscles. The arm works by converting brain signals into an electric current by a “NeuroNode” biopotential headset receiver. NeuroNode biopotential was originally invented to help people suffering from paralysis and speech loss.
The electric current is then driven into the robot’s circuitry, which gives the arm its mobility, according to Euro News. The arm has several component materials including recycled wood and moves vertically and horizontally.
This technology makes it possible for disabled people to drive, operate a device like a computer or a phone, switch on or off lights by just thinking.
The inventors say the idea to develop an electronic prosthetic came to them during the pandemic as part of their contribution towards assisting Kenya to battle the pandemic. It was initially created to help COVID-19 sanitization efforts.
“When the virus hit our country, we decided to create a machine that could help us decontaminate surfaces. It can also be used in schools, restaurants, hospitals,” Shoppe Black quotes Kinyua as saying.
With Kenya successfully limiting the spread of the pandemic, Gathu and Kinyua repurposed their invention towards assisting the disabled in Kenya.
“The reason why we designed this bio-robotic hand is that we wanted to help those people who have lost the use of their limbs, the disabled people. We aim to give them something that will help them or will aid them to go into their daily activities to move from a dependent person to an independent person,” Gathu told AP.
According to AP, more than a million people in Kenya live with disabilities, many of whom lost their limbs in accidents or to polio.
Gathu and Kinyua make their bio-robotic prosthetic arm from second-hand parts salvaged from any old, discarded electronics.
“At the moment, we use raw materials from other discarded appliances because we do not have neither the place nor the resources to obtain the necessary materials to mass-produce,” Kinyua says.
Gathu and Kinyua are both college dropouts. They dropped out of college due to a lack of money. However, it did not stop the two inventors from learning and inventing.
Unfortunately for the duo, funding remains a challenge for mass production of the prosthetic, which is still at the prototype stage.