High Tech

Experimental Prosthetic Hand That Began As Sushi Rice in a Glove

Adaptive Grasp Hand Prosthetic The Open Prosthetics Project blog (“Prosthetics Shouldn’t Cost An Arm and A Leg”) apparently hasn’t been updated since October 2006, and it’s a crying shame. OPP hopes to be to prosthetics development what Linux is to Microsoft — an open source design house which requires no licensing fees to build or share prosthetics engineering.

As the website notes:

All content and designs on this site are in the public domain, and we place no restrictions on their use. We encourage any derivative works, but all designs are registered periodically so that our work cannot be kept from the public by patents.

There was a flurry of publicity for OPP in early 2006, but I can’t find much of anything since then. The website says that OPP is working on three major projects, but the one that I think captures, in a nutshell, the kind of thinking they are bringing to the table is their prosthetic hand design. In OPP’s words:

We’ve been working on a mechanism for adaptive grasp that uses a flexible bag filled with small particles. Normally, the particles can slide past each other and the bag can easily change shape, but when the air is removed from the bag, it squeezes the particles together and they behave like a harder substance.

The prototype was the sushi-rice-filled finger of a dishwashing glove. Eventually, the rice was replaced by small glass beads, and the dishwashing glove with a surgical glove. A vacuum is created inside the glove, sucking the air out from between the rice or the beads, causing the prosthetic to grasp an object. There’s a video on the site showing the glove in action.

The concept’s breathtaking, and yet so simple — though the problem of supplying the vacuum undoubtedly isn’t.

2 replies on “Experimental Prosthetic Hand That Began As Sushi Rice in a Glove”

Marty –

We appreciate your interest in the project, and we’re sorry to disappoint with the lack of current posts.

We’re struggling to update our infrastructure from using textpattern blogging software to a content manager that includes a wiki so that we can allow users to interact more seamlessly with each other instead of mediated by us. This has been delayed in part because sometimes free help is less than timely.

We do have a couple of updates you may be interested in. We have made the first four copies for patient use of the Trautman hook, and the first of those has been delivered to a patient. We have yet to hear his thoughts on the device.

We’re in the process of setting up an e-commerce and supply chain pipeline for the hooks so that we can get them manufactured and in people’s hands without having to be a conduit for the cash. More on that as it develops.

We’re gaining momentum on the mechatronic prosthesis front. There is an instructable for MMG sensors here:, and we’ve had a volunteer design a very cool articulated LEGO hand that we’ve yet to post pics of.

Also, the Shared Design Alliance (OPP’s parent organization) has officially been incorporated as a non profit, and our application for 501(c)3 status has been submitted.

In any case, do not despair that we’ve lost momentum, we just need to communicate a little better, and better manage the energy we have helping with the project.

Jon Kuniholm

Jon —

Thanks for the great update. It’s terrific to hear that so much is going on behind the scenes at OPP.

That’s quite a lot of forward momentum on all fronts. We’ll be watching eagerly for more news as it becomes available.

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