In Brief
Designer Dani Clode created The Third Thumb, a 3D-printed robotic thumb prosthetic, to extend the way we think about disabilities and prosthetics — as extensions of existing capabilities, whatever they are, and augmentations of humanity.

Exploring Human Augmentation

Royal College of Art (RCA) graduate student Dani Clode wants to change the way that people think about prosthetics, and she’s designed and created The Third Thumb to make that happen. Stick with me, it’s really cool.

The Third Thumb is a 3D-printed prosthetic that allows you to do whatever you’d normally do with an opposable thumb, but an extra one. “The origin of the word ‘prosthesis’ meant ‘to add, put on to,’ so not to fix or replace, but to extend,” Clode said to Dezeen. “The Third Thumb is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body.”

Image Credit: Dani Clode
Image Credit: Dani Clode
The thumb straps onto your hand on the side next to your pinky finger — you know, the side with the thumb deficit — and connects with a bracelet you wear on the same side of your body. The bracelet contains servo motors and wires that respond to commands it receives via Bluetooth. You actually tell it what to do with pressure sensors placed under the soles of your feet; to grasp something, you just press down with one foot. Clode told Dezeen this is an easy thing to learn how to do.

Image Credit: Dani Clode
Image Credit: Dani Clode
The thumb itself is made of a flexible plastic, and uses a cable system to function. This design is intended to mimic the naturally dynamic movement of the thumb. The 3D printing design will also allow for customization in future versions of the design.

Image Credit: Dani Clode
Image Credit: Dani Clode
Clode’s design takes us another step closer to a future in which we harness technology to augment our humanity. In other words, the possibility of a future in which prosthetics aren’t just for people with disabilities changes the way we think about disability today; we all have differing capabilities, and prosthetics could help us to extend our capabilities. “It is part tool, part experience, and part self-expression,” Clode told Dezeen. “It instigates necessary conversation about the definition of ‘ability.’”