The International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) is the global organisation that brings together professionals from different disciplines working in the field of prosthetics and orthotics across over 100 countries around the world. This year, we were thrilled to have four members of the GDI Hub team taking part in the bi-annual World Congress, ISPO flagship meeting which was held in Kobe, Japan between the 5th and the 8th of October. Two symposia and two paper presentations were delivered by the GDI Hub researchers based on the work they are conducting in many different areas of prosthetics and orthotics and assistive technology more in general.
The first symposium, delivered on the 6th of October with the title “Learnings from the AT2030 Programme for Service Delivery in LMICs” was delivered by Dr Catherine Holloway, Dr Giulia Barbareschi, and Ben Oldfrey with special participation from Lucas Paes de Melo from Amparo GmbH. In this symposium, the presenters gave an overview of the different areas of work of the AT2030 programme, from the development of an innovation ecosystem in Kenya to the creation of Product Narratives and Innovation Deep Dives which are specific to prosthetics and orthotics. Lucas from Amparo briefly talked about his experience trialling the Confidence Socket in Kenya, which is one of the research projects supported by the AT2030 programme. At the end of the presentation the audience engaged with the researchers to provide feedback and suggest new ways to link our projects to the community at ISPO better.
On Monday the 7th of October, Dr Dafne Zuleima Morgado Ramirez presented two papers that had been accepted to the congress, focussing on the creation of complex protocols to understand the needs and experiences of upper limb amputees in Uganda and Jordan, which is carried out as part of the Fit for Purpose project. The first presentation, titled “Real-life use of upper limb prosthetics in LMICs” illustrated the development and evaluation of a protocol which combines activity tracking and HCI methods (such as surveys and diaries) to understand how upper-limb prostheses are used outside the clinic. The second presentation, with the title “Digital tools for a connected community of upper limb prosthesis users in LMICs” focused on a new pilot study carried out to understand the communication needs of upper limbs prosthetic users in Jordan and Uganda and measuring the impact of removing barriers to communication technology in the development of new peer support groups. Both presentations explored, alongside the protocols developed, the insights gathered through months of collaboration and joint research with local research teams in the two countries and highlighted the importance customising the way we develop research and collect data in response to the cultural and social context in which our studies are deployed.
On the last day of the conference, Tuesday the 8th of October, we had the honour of delivering one of the closing symposia titled “Prosthetics & Orthotics in 2030 – How will material science and design transform the possible?” This session was delivered by Dr Catherine Holloway and Ben Oldfrey in collaboration with Lucas Paes de Melo from Amparo GmbH and Prof Masa Inakage, Dean of the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. The session started with Dr Catherine Holloway explaining how any design effort, especially in the field of assistive technology, should always be driven by needs that are meaningful to the users. To bring home her point, she presented two different projects that explored how lower-limb prosthetics users experience thermal comfort and how wheelchair users and clinicians perceive the usefulness of new exoskeleton technology. Lucas Paes de Melo followed by illustrating how thermoplastic materials are at the core of the Confidence Socket technology developed by Amparo. Ben Oldfrey talked about some of the innovative research carried out by GDI Hub in collaboration with the Institute of Making and the Aspire Create Lab on the development of wearable assistive materials in the field of prosthetics and orthotics. Wearable assistive materials are new soft materials that could provide both sensing and movement capabilities thanks to a layering structure that allow them to perform different functions while remaining comfortable and discrete for the user.
Finally, the session was closed by Prof Inakage who delivered an inspirational talk which illustrated the importance of imagination in the development of assistive technology. According to Prof Inakage, “imagination-driven design could push the boundaries of assistive technology design out of the problem-solving mindset and move us towards an innovative approach where we augment capabilities to empower ourselves and others”.