A major societal problem
Today, there is no commercially available assistive device for the entire arm with a gripping aid to help people with impaired function in the arms and hands. For this group of people, simple tasks you might take for granted have become a greater challenge. Simple tasks such as cutting bread, unscrewing a bottle cap or carrying the laundry basket up the stairs require two hands and gripping. This is a major societal problem. The healthcare system spends significant sums on outdated methods and assistive devices. To make users independent, a crucial part is that they must be able to use their arms and hands for everyday activities independently.
A new type of assistive device
Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA) plays an important role in achieving the goal. Through their support scheme Design-driven innovation project (DIP), DOGA has granted project funds to Vilje Bionics, Blatchford avd. Arendal and EGGS Design to undertake part of the challenge. In the project, they will lay an important cobblestone on the road to what will become a new generation of aids. A generation of assistive devices that becomes an extension of the user, not an impersonal prop that ruins the kitchen counter. A new era where the user owns their body movements with their own arms and hands.
An inclusive process
Vilje, Blatchford and EGGS Design will, through user-centred and inclusive product design, get insights from users, healthcare personnel and subject experts, among others, to develop concepts for gripping aid that allow people with impaired function in the hands to grip objects to carry out everyday activities. Many users reject aids they could have had good use for because the devices are unsatisfactory, and many users feel stigma with visible aids.
With good help from design expertise, orthopedic engineers, and a user-centred and inclusive process, Vilje can create a grip aid that the user is proud of and can identify with.
The DIP project is an important step towards completing an aid that will assist movement in the entire arm. The gripping aid is part of the product which will be the first commercial exoskeleton for the whole arm. It will become an aid that gives independence to users. Users today have a different everyday life, a more challenging everyday life. But it doesn't have to be that way.
“Research indicates that independence in everyday life can lead to an increased sense of mastery, quality of life and better mental health. The majority of users we have spoken to also say that they prefer to be self-reliant with help from an assistive device versus getting assistance from others. Therefore, this project from DOGA, in collaboration with EGGS, is one of the most important steps to reaching a future where everyone has equal opportunities. We are looking forward to the rest of the project. We have already learned an incredible amount from EGGS, and we know they will be important for development” - Asmund Kollbye, Product Manager, Vilje Bionics
Important for the user and society
For many, independent everyday life means better mental health, which is important for the UN's sustainability goals of good health and quality of life. The assistive device will give the user an increased opportunity to participate in society by providing opportunities such as remaining in working life, still living at home or giving the opportunity to participate in social gatherings. Inclusion in society and reducing inequalities for people with disabilities are central to the UN's sustainability goals. Less inequality by 2030 and ensure equal opportunities to empower and promote social, economic and political inclusion.