Charged by a simple mobile phone battery, Mkono-1 was developed by medical doctor Atish Shah and his cofounders to empower people with upper limb amputations. Shah is also a biomedical engineering masters candidate.
In Tanzania, prosthetics are unaffordable for those in middle and low-income communities, and no other battery-powered prosthetics are being developed in the region. Across Africa, as little as 17% of people with amputations can afford prosthetics or rehabilitative devices.
Mkono-1 is the first locally designed and manufactured myoelectric hand in Tanzania. The technology amplifies the electrical impulses of the amputated limb’s muscle tissue, and these signals are processed to allow the user to move the hand.
Shah and his team at RoverLabs are passionate about helping amputees regain access to economic opportunities, as well as the confidence and independence that come with improved mobility.
Mkono-1 is manufactured using high performance servomotors to mimic the movement of each finger, and multifilament braided high-tension strings to function as tendons. The microcontroller is the heart of the circuit. Mkono-1 is battery powered and can be recharged with a mobile phone charger. It requires minimal maintenance, and spare parts are readily available.
The RoverLabs team have tested three prototypes and continue to improve their design. Current development includes incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, which will improve response time, giving users quicker reflexes. They are also looking to expand their market in East Africa and move into Central Africa, where up to 96 of every 1,000 people has an amputated limb.
“We found that the communities most likely to suffer major injuries like amputations are often those who can least afford prosthetics. Mkono-1 is our first step in providing more affordable options to people with mobility challenges, and we hope it will significantly change our customers’ lives.”
Dr Atish Shah, Mkono-1