Nov 21, 2016 | By Benedict

Rishabh Java, a 14-year-old boy from the UAE, has scooped the ‘Best Innovative Project’ prize at the first Gulf 3D Printing Olympiad. Java designed a 3D printed bionic arm that can purportedly be controlled with the mind using an Electroencephalography (EEG) monitor.

Organized by 3D printing company Atlab and hosted by the GEMS Wellington Academy in Dubai, the first Gulf 3D Printing Olympiad saw more than 75 teams from schools across the Gulf region submit 3D printed innovations based on the competition’s “Design Your First Consumer Product” theme. Winners across four age categories had the chance to win a 3D printer and a cash prize: Dhs10,000 ($2,700) for first place, Dhs5,000 for second, and Dhs3,000 for third. Winners will also have the chance to visit the BETT Show in the UK in 2017.

Java, a student from Gems Millennium School, claimed top prize in the Junior High age range for an impressive-sounding 3D printed bionic arm that, according to reports, is able to perform simple tasks like shaking hands and picking up objects via mind control. No, the 3D printed arm isn’t magic, but purportedly uses EEG technology to monitor patterns of electricity in the brain, allowing the device to be operated without manual controls.

According to reports, the 3D printer-savvy student designed his bionic arm to help limb-different people have more control over their prosthetic arm, and plans to develop the device further. “I am thrilled to receive the award,” Java said. “In future I plan to add other functionalities such as equip it with sensors that give a real-time response to the residual arm, have wrist and elbow movement and make it more user-friendly.”

The mind-controllable 3D printed arm certainly sounds impressive, but the Olympiad—whose official website still contains no news of Saturday’s event—has given no details of how Java was able to harness the power of EEG to create a functional prosthetic device that can be controlled by the mind. The Gulf Today, the news source that initially broke the story, simply reports that EEG technology was used. We might therefore exercise some caution before thinking that Java’s device could change the lives of those with missing forearms.

Although lots of university-level research has been carried out into the use of mind control for artificial limbs, it seems most likely that Java, as a 14-year-old student, had access to some off-the-shelf EEG equipment. And while EEG headsets are available on the consumer electronics market from companies like Emotiv and NeuroSky, the functionality of those models is limited.

At present, most EEG headsets are being marketed at developers looking to carry out research, rather than the general consumer seeking a shortcut for day-to-day tasks. However, many users have reported mixed results with such headsets, which can struggle to differentiate between the electrical signals of the mind and those produced by muscles and electronic devices in the vicinity, and which are only at their most effective when the wearer has a shaved head.

Clearly then, consumer EEG technology is not yet perfect. However, given that the Olympiad invited distinguished guests like Abdul Salam, Head of the Dubai Municipality Accelerator and the Processes and Systems section, perhaps we should give Java the benefit of the doubt and accept that his 3D printed device is simply the result of a student fully committed to engineering and the sciences. And after all, the student only claimed that the device could perform simple motions.

Overall, the first Gulf 3D Printing Olympiad was reportedly a big success, and the organizers can now look forward to planning next year’s event. “The Gulf 3D printing Olympiad—the first such event in the region—is aimed at creating young engineers,” said S Senthil Kugan, Director of Atlab. “We are highly pleased by the number of teams that participated in the competition and the products that were designed as part of the contest.”

 

 

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Robert McLean wrote at 11/21/2016 11:03:48 PM:

I find the crudely constructed 3D Printed hands like the one depicted in the above article distasteful and detrimental. Subjecting those that are without limbs to so crudely made toys that are supposed to pass for limbs is demeaning in the extreme. I have witnessed these toys being passed off for limbs for over 5 years now and every time someone comes up with a copy they are congratulated to a sickening degree. Until someone comes up with something truly revolutionary and ultra functional rivaling the true hand and limb, spare me. Robert McLean



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