Students at Hereward College are road testing one of the only robotic arms in the UK.
Disabled students at the Coventry college are trying out the artificial arm – complete with elbow, forearm and fingers – to see if it can help with day to day tasks.
Controlled with a joystick or switches, the electric device can grip objects, pick them up and move them about.
Information technology student Jonathan McGeown demonstrated how the arm can be used to be grip a beaker and lift it off a table.
Staff at the college in Bramston Crescent, Tile Hill, bought the arm from Canadian company Kinova. They were able to buy it at a discount as the company is keen to get the product being used by people in the UK.A donation from energy giant Npower was used to cover the cost.
College staff believe it will be useful for students with conditions that affect ability to use limbs such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
Students will be asked to try out the device and help staff assess how useful it is.If it proves as useful as they expect, staff plan to collect evidence and present it to charities and the NHS to make the case for funding for more of the robotic arms.
Demonstrating the arm to the Telegraph, Jonathan said: “It has been good so far.”According to the college’s head of access, research and development Paul Doyle, the robotic arm is the only Kinova made one being used by disabled people in the country. Similar ones made by other manufacturers are relatively rare.Mr Doyle said:
“We have been using assistive technologies for some time and the next phase of development is in the field of robotics.
“This arm has been widely used in Canada and North America and is starting to be used in Europe.
“In this country the health service prescribes on an evidence base and because this arm hasn’t been used there is no evidence – so it hasn’t been prescribed.
“It’s a Catch 22 situation. We hope to change that by providing the evidence.“The joystick means it can be used in three dimensions to pick up pencils and glasses. Although it is expensive it can save on the long run because it means less to do for carers.”
This article was written and belongs to Coventry Telegraph™