When it comes to technology, there have been many success stories wherein brilliants minds sought to abandon higher education in favour of innovation. Names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are perhaps the most notable as they pursued their dreams and eventually became billionaires. Meanwhile, Easton LaChappelle hopes to become the next game-changer in both the tech and medical industry through cutting-edge prosthetics. Moreover, his creations can be controlled by the mind.
Ten years ago, this Colorado native was just learning from how-to videos on YouTube. Now, his company – Unlimited Tomorrow – produces 3D-printed mechanical limbs that can be operated by human thought. What sets their products apart from other advanced prosthetics manufacturers is the more affordable pricing. The founder claims that a chance encounter at a science fair when he was in eighth grade led him to where he is right now.
According to LaChapelle, he talked to a seven-year-old girl with an "archaic" prosthetic arm which was very limited in functionality. Furthermore, he was reportedly shocked to learn that it cost $80,000 and did little to meet the needs of the user, as reported by CNN. "I was shocked to learn how much it costs, especially realising that she would soon outgrow it and it would become useless at that point," said the 24-year-old inventor.
"I couldn't believe this was the best thing available for her, and that's when I decided to find out how I can create something that provides physical utility," he explained. From his understanding, prosthetics should be designed to help the user complete daily tasks such as eating with utensils or tying shoelaces.
Another aspect that should be important is the overall appearance, which also helps the person recognise the prosthetic limb as their own extension. The TrueLimb is the flagship model from Unlimited Tomorrow that relies on muscle sensors to execute the intended movements. It will take some time for the owner to adapt to how the system works. However, once they do, it would start to feel more natural.
Each TrueLimb is customised to match the user's size, skin tone and shape of the residual limb. The movements of the joints and fingers are reportedly lifelike. Unlimited Tomorrow markets its products at a lower cost than others. Additionally, they also offer a programme wherein owners can purchase an upgrade at half the price once they have outgrown their current one.