Grace Mandeville Models Robotic Arm For 'Star Wars' Fashion Collection — PHOTOS
Further cementing the fact that today's sci-fi is a decent predictor of tomorrow's tech, model Grace Mandeville donned a Star Wars themed prosthetic arm for Fashion Finds the Force, a charitable fashion show, Forbes reports. Aside from looking really really cool, the prosthetic is fitted with robotics that, when attached via myoelectric sensors to the wearer's biological limb, gives the wearer control of the hand's individual finger movements with enough accuracy to rival Vader's own enhancements. Even cooler? The prosthetic was 3D printed. Open Bionics, the company that designed the arm in conjunction with fashion designer Claire Barrow, claims that 3D printing enables them not only to cut down significantly on production time, but also drastically reduce the cost of a prosthetic limb, which can cost up to $100,000, to several thousand instead, according to TechCrunch. My conclusion? The future is now.
This is not the first instance of a prosthetic limb doubling as a fashion accessory: notable fashion designers have embraced the prosthetic limb as a design opportunity, including British designer Alexander McQueen. In 1999, paralympic athlete Aimee Mullins opened McQueen's Spring/Summer collection wearing a pair of intricately carved wooden legs. Although McQueen's wooden prosthetics were beautiful, they were not functional, lacking an articulated ankle and foot. Wearing prosthetics on a daily basis is more about comfort and usability than appearance, and while prosthetics developers have made great strides since McQueen's collection and even greater strides since The Empire Strikes Back first premiered in 1980, the advent of cheap 3D printing and mechatronics in recent years have enabled prosthetics companies to develop fashionable and functionable prosthetics.
There are several prosthetics companies on the scene today that cater in varying extents to both fashion and function. The Alternative Limb Project, run by artist and sculptor Sophie De OIiveira Barata, is on the fashion end of the spectrum: she is responsible for the gorgeous prosthetic legs pop star Viktoria Modesta wears.
For those who get tired of looking at the same prosthetic every day, Allelles Design Studio specializes in prosthetics covers. Aside from designing for fashion shows, Open Bionics offers a line of prosthetic arms designed for children, including a likeness of Elsa from Frozen and Iron Man's trademark red suit (side note: check out Robert Downey Jr. giving a little boy his new Iron Man arm and prepare to pretend you're not crying).
While people shouldn't feel pressured to use a prosthetic if they don't want to, access to a range of solutions at different price points is critical for those that do. Mandeville told 3D Printing Industry, an industry blog, that she doesn't always choose to wear her prosthetic, but when she does, she wants it to be unique. "I really love fashion," she says, "and therefore dress to illustrate my personality, so being able to wear a creative prosthetic that shows who I am seems awesome — it’s like a one-off accessory that nobody else can wear, basically like vintage Chanel.” She also discusses the impact that her prosthetics have had on her Youtube channel, which she shares with sister Amelia.
Fortunately the intersection of technology and design (and in this case, Star Wars) is allowing more prosthetics wearers to choose just how they want the world to see them. And that's really cool.
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