IKO is a creative prosthetic system designed for children to explore and empower their creativity in a playful, social and friendly way.
The project proposes a new mindset from what current prosthetics are. Missing a limb shouldn't be a disability for a kid when you have the opportunity to explore and augment their potential by creating, playing and learning.
The needs of a kid in disability are not always related to physical activity but often alternatively the social and psychological aspect; sometimes a functional element is everything they need, but some other times it might be a spaceship, or a doll house, or a telescope, or a video game controller, or a swim fin...
What if kids could use their imagination to create their own prosthetics, their own tools according to their own needs? Learning. Creating. Being kids.
Empowering kids in disability to raise their voice, to realize they are indeed special was my first thought when I started the project.
During the initial stage of the project I travelled to Colombia to meet one of my sponsors, CIREC. They have experts in different fields to rehabilitate patients in disability. They guided me through their process and introduced me to my two cases of study: Dario and Angie ( see the PDF document for my research journey ).
What I saw
I got some revealing insights about kids, disability and the way they get around on everyday situations, the social aspect of course is very evident, rejection, fear, anxiety; those are things no kid should go through. I found out that there are huge needs related not only to the physical activity but their psychological being. What if “normal” kids could understand disability in from a different perspective? Maybe they could empathize instead of being afraid of something they don’t know, what if they could all share, learn and create all together using play as a mean? Figuring out how to translate that concept into a system with the right balance between a playful experience and an everyday functional prosthetic was the challenge.
There were many problems I was trying to understand; the bad perception that kids have around prosthetics, the deep focus that companies have on engineering and not the human part of a kid in disability, the social isolation of a kid because of his condition and how hard can be for them to build a strong self-esteem. My idea was not to make a traditional prosthetic, but to propose a system that was flexible enough for kids to use, hack and create with by themselves and with their friends.
Meeting with my second sponsor LEGO Future Lab was crucial to understand my findings during the research, they do really know kids and they shared the value of play and learning together.
What I did
The solution, turning the prosthesis into a toy was something that had to be explored, a kid does not always play and one of the big insights during research pointed out that kids were also very interested in a functional tool. There had to be a right balance between a playful experience and something functional, and more over something that could allow kids to explore their creativity, something they could be proud of.
Using the LEGO system was part of this solution, not just because of its creative content, but most of it its social feature; this is a toy that gathers people around with a single goal: the pride of creation, but in this scenario I found that it transcends to a higher level. When I was testing the prototype I planned two different sessions, one that was hard to achieve and forced the kid to use his family and people nearby to finish, and a second one easy enough to involve a normal kid and get a glimpse the social dynamics that the system could create.
LEGO is just a start
This project has a global intended market. Partnering with strategic companies would allow the system to offer a bigger flexibility and more accessible prices to the public. The nature of the system would allow to be compatible with more products than LEGO, imagine having MARVEL developing superhero modules, MATTEL making doll houses or car launchers, GE producing microscopes, NINTENDO having compatible accessories, and everything at its normal accessible price.
What IKO does
In the final stage of my degree work I travelled back to Colombia to test a prototype of IKO along with some special LEGO sets design to get insights in different environments and situations as a prof of concept.
I planned 2 tests to get more specific insights besides that the system could actually work. The first test had a focus on the collaborative aspect of the system; I Designed a Backhoe LEGO set difficult enough to build where the kid used the people around as co-players. And in the Second test I designed an easy, story driven Spaceship LEGO set to be assembled by a close friend of my case of study. the results exceeded my expectations ( you can find the details and additional video material of the test results in the PDF document ).
This Prosthetic system steps aside from what a traditional prosthetic is. It focuses in bringing a new mindset to the kid in terms of what the patient is able to do and incepts the idea of intelligence and creativity being strong drivers to move forward in life. The main concept of this project is to build and enrich the kid’s self-esteem through a learning, creative and social inclusive experience.
This is a really cool project that we were blown away by...In my eyes, this is basically turning kids into superheroes.
I think it's a great way for kids to learn technology and have fun and interact with other kids. It is a fabulous project and a nice way of helping kids feel better about themselves...I think a prosthetic is a design object that is almost as personal as you can get...It's pretty fun and an exciting use of all the technologies.