Cheaper prosthetic arms let kids become a Jedi Knight, Iron Man or Elsa

Open Bionics, a UK-based company that makes affordable prosthetic limbs, has partnered with Disney to create bionic arms that let kids feel like Elsa from "Frozen," Iron Man or a Jedi for around $3,000.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico
2 min read

Enlarge Image
The Open Bionics Star Wars-themed arm was built with help from Lucasfilm's ILMxLAB. Open Bionics

Robert Downey Jr. won't be able to personally deliver them like he did for one lucky child who got a custom-built Iron Man prosthetic arm, but soon child amputees around the world will be able to get their very own Iron Man, Star Wars or "Frozen"-themed bionic prosthetic hands from Open Bionics for much cheaper than traditional prosthetics.

Open Bionics is a Bristol, England-based company that uses 3D printing technology to make bionic hands for amputees at a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics.

The company is part of Techstars Disney Accelerator's 2015 class, a startup accelerator that gives a small group of companies access to the creative expertise and resources of The Walt Disney Company to build new Disney-inspired things that make an impact in the fields of entertainment and technology.

Through this program, Open Bionics used Disney's creative talent to create a line of superhero bionic arms for children with some pretty spectacular designs. The designs include a red Iron Man gauntlet with a vibrating repulsor, one of Elsa's sparkling blue gloves from the hit 2013 movie "Frozen," and a Star Wars-themed arm that lights up with colored LED lights.

Open Bionics' series of bionic arms transform kids into their favorite superheroes. Open Bionics

People have designed superhero-themed prosthetics before -- like these Iron Man and Wolverine hands, for example -- but Open Bionics' arms are the first to be officially sanctioned by Disney and will be the first such product to be widely available to the consumer.

As part of the accelerator, Disney granted Open Bionics royalty-free licensing for its properties, which combined with Open Bionic's apparent knack for creating cheap-but-functional 3D-printed prosthetics should keep the devices pretty cheap, especially compared with typical prostheses that can cost upward of $20,000 (about £13,000, AU$27,000).

Company founder Joel Gibbard told The Independent that his Disney bionic hands will cost around $3,000 (about £1,950, AU$4,100) and should be available to purchase before the end of 2016. So there could be more little Jedi Knights, ice-powered queens and Iron Man superheroes saving the world with their supercharged bionic arms as early as next year.

Gibbard's company also founded the Open Hand Project, which provides completely free source materials and instructions for users to 3D print and build their own Dextrus bionic hand. The company also won the 2015 UK James Dyson Award, an annual design competition for students.

You can see Open Bionics' traditional prosthetic arms in action in the video below. More information about exact pricing and availability of Open Bionics' line of Disney-themed bionic arms will be available closer to their expected release in 2016.

Correction, October 14, 9:05 a.m. PT: The article originally misstated the price of the Disney bionic arms. Gibbard tells CNET they're expected to cost around $3,000 (about £1,950, AU$4,100).