Alex Pring, a boy who was born with a partially developed right arm, has always been fond of superheroes. Now he got to meet one in person. Robert Downey Junior, former Iron Man star, introduced himself to the 7-year old saying that he was an expert in bionics. He brought two suitcases with him, one containing his Iron-Man arm and one containing a 3D-printed prosthetic limb for the boy. As they both tried on their bionic limbs, Downey Jr. tried to convince Alex that his own hand was less functional, because the lights on it were not working well. As for the boy’s prosthesis, the actor said that it’s an experiment which will be improved over time. The video of the little boy being led to a room where he meets his favorite superhero and gets to shake bionic hands with him became viral. It scored up to 300,000 shares so far.
The hand that Alex received is part of a Microsoft campaign called The Collective Project, which encourages students to make improvements in their communities with the help of technology. Since 3D printed prostheses are almost a hundred times less expensive than other artificial limbs, there is a lot of interest for developing this technology. Limbitless Solutions is a volunteer group started by engineer Albert Manero and specialized in producing free bionic limbs for children with disabilities. They were the ones who produced Alex’s new arm, which is designed to connect to the muscles in the boy’s upper arm and perceive their movements through sensors, which in their turn send signals to a series of small motors, which control the fingers through a set of wires.
Robert Downey Jr. considered it an “absolute privilege” to be the one to show the little boy the new bionic limb, and wrote on Facebook that Alex was “the most dapper 7-year-old” he had ever met (the kid was wearing a bow tie and all). Alex Pring was likewise delighted to meet “Iron Man”, though a little shy because of the surprise.
The Collective Project campaign is intended to promote social inclusion and to turn prosthetic limbs from a luxury into an affordable tool and a nonetheless cool gadget. The 3D prototypes they work with are open source, so that anyone can come up with ideas for improvement.
image source: abc news