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Paris digital tech expo awards prosthetic Lego arm for children

media NetExplo conference Paris, 2016 NetExplo conference Paris, 2016

A prosthetic arm made of Lego that children with disabilities can customise to their own needs won the grand prize at the Netexplo forum for digital technology in Paris on Wednesday. The IKO Creative Prosthetic System, created by Colombian designer Carlos Torres, is compatible with Lego parts and can be customised with different shapes, colours and accessories.

The Netexplo forum, put on by the observatory of the same name for the ninth year, explores innovation in digital technology via a network of 20 universities spread across 15 countries.

The winner was chosen from entries from around the world, including a mobile phone app that can translate the 11 official languages of South Africa and a Japanese robot that got good enough grades in school exams to go to the University of Tokyo.

"Torres wanted to help children with malformed or injured arms feel less isolated by making their disability feel less of a burden or a stigma," the event organisers said. "As well as technology, imagination can help children overcome a handicap."

In a 2015 interview with Quartz magazine, Torres said he came up with the idea during an internship at the LEGO Future Lab in Denmark, after seeing fully functioning automobile made with Lego bricks and a Lego robot that solved Rubik’s cube puzzles. He also saw people who had built arms and legs for themselves using Legos and immediately thought of his home country, Colombia. “My generation was born in the armed conflict that has already been in the picture for 50 years.”

Created in 2007 by Martine Bidegain and Thierry Happe, Netexplo (“Netexplorateur” until late 2011) works in partnership with the French Senate, and the French Ministry for the Digital Economy.

Event co-founder Thierry Happe said the Netexplo Observatory had identified some 2,175 digital inventions this year.

"The 10 nominations illustrate the general trend that, thanks to digital (technology), has pushed the limits in order to enlarge the field of possibilities," he said.

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