Innovate. Invent. Experiment. In this series, Imperial alumni tell us what they are working on.
Illustration: Mike Lemanski
Ben Lakey (MRes Bioengineering 2018)
Mitt Wearables builds affordable, functional prosthetic limbs using plastics and fabrics. Instead of having rigid sockets that clinicians have to specially fit to users, we have an adjustable interface that users can fit themselves, which makes them light, breathable and much more comfortable.
The human body is so complicated – hands in particular; we’re years away from replicating them well. So instead of having an electric hand that does many things badly, we have a growing range of task-specific tools that clip in and out – for holding a pen, a kitchen knife, a table tennis bat or whatever users need.
My co-founder Nate Macabuag (MEng Mechanical Engineering, 2018) came up with the idea in the third year of his degree, after he designed a robotic hand. The quadruple amputee he asked to test it said: ‘You don’t need all of these electronics, I just want something that’s comfortable to wear.’ I was also studying high-end prosthetic hands, so a mutual friend introduced us. When Nate told me what he was working on, I loved it.
I got into prosthetics after my sister had her foot amputated and I saw the struggles she went through to have the procedure, to get a prosthetic and to have it fitted correctly. And that’s in Canada, a country with great healthcare. What really excites me about our design is that, because it is easy to use and many times cheaper than the alternatives, it makes prosthetics globally accessible.
We will be the first direct-to-consumer prosthetic because we have standardised sizes, much like shoes. That opens up a world of possibility: long term, our goal is to have Mitt prosthetics in 101 countries. My grandpa always used to say that if you love what you do it will never feel like work. More than anything, I want to build a company like that.
Ben Lakey is co-founder and CEO of Mitt Wearables.