The Third Thumb
The Third Thumb is a 3D printed human hand extension controlled by the feet. It investigates the relationship between bodily movement and the control of body connected technology.
The Third Thumb began as a research project into upper-limb prosthetics; how they attach to the body, the human/robot aesthetic and how they are controlled by the body. Early on, I found that the origin of the word ‘prosthesis’ meant ‘an addition to’ yet somehow it has evolved to describe a body part replacement, or a way to ‘fix’ a broken body. I feel that prosthetics are extensions to the body. Our societal norms of what a ‘normal’ body has generated an idea of perfect body aesthetic, but this is evolving.
A prosthetic extends the body, but is more than just a product; it sits in an area between the body and a product. It is controlled by the body like a tool, yet the locomotion of it can be learned to the level of automation of a body part. I created the Third Thumb to understand and work with this connection that can form between the body and a piece of prosthetic technology.
The motion of the Third Thumb is created by wires attached to motors on the wrist. The human thumb has a really dynamic movement, it can reach in, and across the hand, and up towards the fingers and back. These opposing movements working together make the thumb more functional than a single finger. I’ve replicated these movements by using two motors pulling against the natural pull back of a flexible 3d printed material. The motors are controlled by two pressure sensors retrofitted into your shoes, under your toes, and communicates to the thumb via Bluetooth connection. The foot control is inspired by products that help to develop the already strong connection between our hands and our feet. For example driving a car, using a sewing machine, or playing a piano.
School of Design
MA Design Products, 2017
+44 (0)7432 159632
How our hands interact with the world fascinates me. During my time at the Royal College of Art I found my design exploration leading to upper limb prosthetics. A prosthetic extends the body, but is more than just a product; it sits in an area between the body and a product. It is controlled by the body like a tool, yet the locomotion of it can be learned to the level of automation of the body, part-body, part-product. As a designer I wanted to understand this relationship on a deeper level than a conversation. I created the Third Thumb, my graduate project, to understand and work with this connection that can form between the body and a piece of prosthetic technology.
The Third Thumb was developed within two main areas of design exploration and research that I hope to continue. I wanted to consider and integrate each of these areas, whilst developing both simultaneously.
The Hand: Recreating the movement of the hand, fingers and thumb. My main goal with this exploration is to re-create the movement of the thumb without heavy interlocking mechanisms. I am working with flexible 3d printed materials such as ninjaflex, creating material based live-hinge designs that I can print in one piece. I’m inspired by the simplicity of the human hand and how the joints, don’t interlock, but just move elegantly together.
Body Control and Connection: Exploring controlling and connecting technology to the body. Within this research I am exploring the physical data input from the movement of the body. My research includes, flex and stretch sensors on the skin surface, muscle sensors reading different physical reactions, and pressure sensors measuring our bodies contact with the physical world.
- Bachelor of Design Innovation (BDI), Victoria University of Wellington NZ, 2013
- Product designer, Project: Counting Sheep, NZ Merino in an Internet of Things by Dr. Anne Galloway, 2013, NZ; Graphic designer. ...Loves Company, 2014–16, London; Designer, The Alternative Limb Project, 2016–present, London; Large Format Print Finisher/ Zund Operator, Genix, 2014–15, London; Artworker, Ian Rouse Furniture Design, 2013, NZ
- Bone Knitter Project exhibited in 'How Will We Work' Vienna Biennale, 2017
- Bone Knitter Project, IoT Editors Choice Award, 2013