Cheap Medical Advances

I was watching the news yesterday and there was an article about a new bionic arm made for this boy who was born without an arm. This ties in to the discussion we had the other day in class regarding medical advances. Although I was opposed to the idea of robots in the household setting that would help patients recuperate but I was all for robots in hospitals assisting in surgery, this seems to be a type of robot intervention that I would encourage. I am studying biomedical engineering and plan to immerse myself in the new medical technologies, specifically prosthetic limbs or the devices used in hospitals.

Engineering students at the University of Central Florida were able to 3-D print a fully functioning bionic arm. The six-year-old boy was able to move the fingers, wave to the camera, hold a football, etc. The most surprising aspect of this article was the fact that the arm only cost $350 as opposed to the roughly $40,000 for other prosthetic arms. The advances that have been made in the medical field are astounding.

This arm, a type of robot, would be completely controlled by this boy, cannot talk back to the boy, and has become part of the boy’s body. This may not seem like the typical robot that we are used to but has robotic features. I feel as though a nurse should be helping a patient with physical therapy rather than a robot but a nurse cannot take the place of a boy’s arm.

Perhaps instead of scientists creating a robot that can tell a human to raise his arm everyday to help the arm get better, the scientists should be creating a new arm.  I think the technology and ideas are all there, they just have to be implemented correctly and put to better use.

The article stressed the cost of the arm for this boy. I find it amazing that this only cost $350. This goes to show how far medical advances have already come and will continue to advance. This makes me think of how a 4-gig USB flash drive might have cost $30 five years ago and might only cost $3 now.

Since I was opposed to the idea of robots in the household, this is an exception I am willing to make. I would not want to listen to a robot telling me to pick up a glass of water but if I have control over the robot, such as if I had a robotic arm like this boy, and was able to use my brain and muscles to control the robotic arm and pick up the glass of water on my own, that is a different story. Medical technology is fascinating when implemented correctly, such as in this instance.

I wonder what the next step will be and how easily accessible these devices will be made to the public as the price continues to fall. Hopefully I will be able to partake in some of this research in the near future.

Here is a link to the article, very cool!



  1. Interesting post. It’s incredible that we can create a bionic arm for just $350. I never would have guessed that. I think this sort of device should definitely be implemented and improved upon. It not only works functionally, but it also would help the patient psychologically in eliminating the pain that comes with phantom limb, where people feel as though their missing limb is itching or in pain.

  2. That is amazing I am blown away by the fact that the robotic arm is only $350. Like you said others can cost $40,000 and to have a new part of your body for the same price as an iPad just astounds me. I have always been very interested in prosthetics and it is great to see research into these life altering technologies are progressing so quickly and efficiently.

  3. This is a fascinating post and article. I have a similar view point as you on when robotics should be used in medical technology, but I agree that this bionic arm- especially at such a seemingly small expense, is a major innovation that will be able to help so many humans. I feel that 3D printing is helping to advance us further in so many aspects as a society and I cannot wait to see what is developed next with 3D printing!

  4. It would be hard to continue opposing robots in the house after seeing this. While I’m sure this boy could have lived a normal life, it would have been much more of a struggle. If only other companies would step up and get these products out there at this kind of price.

  5. This is exactly the kind of use of technology I love reading about. Bionic body parts amaze me, especially in the last few years, because they have finally reached a point where they can almost replicate a human being’s physical capabilities to the point of extreme accuracy. People used to say that this would never be equal to a real foot, but in recent years, I believe that these bionic parts have come to be very similar. The article was a great read.

  6. I am also shocked that this arm only costs $350, that is less than a laptop or TV. It is hard to believe that technology so profound costs so little. I feel like everything today costs so much money, especially in the medical filed, that people in need cannot even purchase it. It is refreshing to know that there is now medical items out there that are affordable.

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