What are the latest advancements in Bionic arms?
Loss of a hand can be devastating and unlike losing a leg, the functional limitations following the loss of a hand can have catastrophic results- personally and professionally.
A few hundred years ago a hand amputee would have been condemned to a hook prosthesis that had limited function and carried signiﬁcant social stigma. However, recent technology advancements provide a hand amputee a replacement hand that replicates a whole host of normal hand functions and looks remarkably life-like. Some users also opt for bionic hands that look futuristic.
The latest bionic hands are now equipped with advanced pattern recognition algorithms for individual finger control to achieve a wide range of functional grips such as power, precision close, adaptive, tripod etc. These hands are priced between 30-65 lakhs. 3D printed bionic arms are one of the latest advancements in the bionic industry.
Your evaluation of industry potential in India and globally?
According to the WHO World Report on Disabilities, about 38.6 million people need prostheses or orthoses. Most of these people belong to underdeveloped and developing nations. According to the 2011 census, about 5.6 million people in India are orthopedically challenged.
What are the technology advancements in this space?
A lot of research is going on to give a sensation of touch to a user using tactile feedback sensors so that the user can feel the characteristics of an object that she/he is touching. This is a crucial step towards mimicking a biological hand. The idea is to enable the recipient of a bionic hand to function that is as natural as possible.
Your interest in Bionics
My mentor Dr. M.S. Swaminathan made me realise that the youth of this nation, need to start directing our technical and leadership acumen towards solving the problems of this country and the rest of the world. I then decided to start Makers Hive, an organisation that would build affordable, technological solutions for real world problems.
Inspired by our Former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam and his vision to provide affordable medical devices, we ventured into Bionics. Expensive bionic arm variants currently available in the market prevent access to most people who are in need, especially in developing countries like ours.
We built KalArm (Hand of the future), India’s first bionic hand. We named the product as a tribute to Dr. Kalam. Despite being one of the most advanced bionic hands in the world, it is one of the most affordable as well. The KalArm is 10-20 times more affordable than any other bionic hands offering the same features.
Tell us about more about KalArm
KalArm offers many industry leading features. It has 18 pre-defined grips that are very carefully curated to help the amputee perform any task effortlessly.
We have also added the option to add 6 custom grips in the KalAssist Mobile app. This would allow the user to define grips tailored to their daily needs. It also has unique features like Wireless Firmware updates and Performance Monitoring on the Mobile Application.
KalArm was launched on Dec 3rd 2020, to coincide with the International Day of People with Disabilities. Since then we have received a phenomenal response. This includes pre-orders for hundreds of bionic arms. We are now tying up with all major hospital chains and P&O (Prosthetic and Orthotic) centres across the country.
We are also closely working with several NGOs to provide these hands for free of cost to those who can’t afford them. Most amputees in India are middle-aged and remain unemployed. KalArm can help these people get back on their feet and support their families. Gayatri, our first user can now pick up her child with both her hands. Vivek, another beneficiary, is now pursuing MBA in IIM Bangalore. Ravi runs a fast food centre. There are many such success stories and we hope to enable millions more.
How did the successful fundraise come about and what is your fund utilisation strategy?
We have recently raised US$9 million from partner firms, Starfish Growth Partners LLP and Investpad, who have been fundamentally involved in the growth of Makers Hive since inception.
Philip Thomas (Starfish Growth Partners) and I have been collaborating for the last 7 years. He was very instrumental in me starting this venture. Not only does he understand the vision and potential of the product, but also doesn’t shy away from getting into execution to turn it into a successful business. After spending two and half years in the product development and compliance journey, we knew we needed to raise investments to set up the assembly line and scale the product to the market.
Sai Abhishek Rayarao (InvestPad) believed in our vision and stepped forward to join our journey by investing in Makers Hive. He also brings a lot of strategic value and global business acumen to the organisation.
With this fund, we will be solidifying up the Assembly Line, fast-tracking our FDA compliance to enter the US market and start product development for the next revolutionary product – ExoSkeleton. We will also expand our offerings with the likes of Bionic eyes and other human potential enhancing products in the future.