Two men have given a South African boy the hand he never had -- from 10,000 miles apart.
In 2011, Carpenter Richard Van As of South Africa, who lost his fingers to a work accident, saw an intriguing YouTube video by an amateur mechanical engineer in the U.S. It featured a giant mechanical hand.
Thinking the maker of the video had serious potential, Van As emailed Ivan Owen, who replied from Bellingham, Wash. Owen agreed to help develop a prosthetic finger, according to CNET Australia.
The pair immediately began emailing designs and comments. They used MakerBot 3D printers to send entire parts and plans, blogging about their progress on the blog, "Coming Up Shorthanded."
Meanwhile, a blog reader and mother of a 5-year-old boy, Liam, contacted Van As to inquire about possible devices for her son, CNET reported. He was born without fingers in his right hand. Van As and Owens decided Liam deserved a full prosthetic hand.
In November, Owen travelled to Johannesburg to finish collaborating in person. A few months later, Liam became the first person to receive their completed project: the Robohand, which costs less than $150.
In the video above, Liam uses it to pick up coins from a table and play a ball game.
Anyone could get one, from the website Thingiverse, where Owen and Van As made the 3D printing pattern available for download.
This device was built for a 5-year-old boy. Using Makerware, it could be scaled to fit a wide range of individuals. The only thing that would need to be changed is the size of the bolts purchased from a hardware store. The design is open source and in the public domain. We encourage anyone who can make use of this design for any purpose to do so.
According to NBC News, a cable system makes the device work. The user, with action from the wrist and any remains of original digits, pulls on the Robohand's parts, contracting its artificial fingers.
Owen and Van As hope Liam's new hand is only the beginning.
"Our vision is to make this available for people and locations where there's no infrastructure present," Owen told NBC News.