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'Arm Identity'? UCF company using 'AI' to personalize prosthetics

Photo: Matthew Peddie / WMFE
Photo: Matthew Peddie / WMFE

When generative AI tools became available this year, many identified them as a disruptive technology. Limbitless Solutions creative director Matt Dombrowski embraced them with open arms.

"Limbitless started on what was, unfairly, called a disruptive technology with 3D printing," Dombrowski said. "Everyone thought that was scary. And so seeing what we can do with the next disruptive technology, like AI, gives us a lot of hope. It gives us a lot of creative fuel for the future."

Founded nine years ago, Limbitless Solutions is a research company at the University of Central Florida responsible for providing robotic prosthetic arms to children designed with inspiration from video game and movie characters.

Last spring, Dombrowski started experimenting with the Adobe generative image AI tool. By the summer, Limbitless began using generative AI to let children in the program design the cosmetics of their robotic prosthetic arms. The company uses AI to develop as many interchangeable “flat lay” designs as possible.

The easy accessibility toward customization has allowed for a sort of arm identity — allowing kids to freely express themselves — which has helped bridge the stigma of using a robotic prosthetic, said executive director Albert Manero.

"We're working on different ways of using the cosmetic components of our bionic arm to be able to affect the stigma of wearing a prosthetic," Manero said. "It's a very instrumental part of that process of connecting with your prosthetic and then being able to use that as part of what you communicate to the world with your device."

Limbitless has embraced the Adobe tool in all aspects of its company including marketing. Dombrowski said it saved them a lot of time in development, allowing for more time in creativity.

"Before we would go to the store and buy a bunch of props and set up in a studio. It was pretty labor and time-intensive," he said. "We found with generative AI we could expedite that process, and get right to the creativity immediately."

Adobe named Dombrowski as one of the “2023 Creators to Watch” for the use of generative AI and prosthetics.

Limbitless was recognized at the 2023 Adobe Max Conference earlier this year, as well. Mareno said the company will continue to use the technology as the company enters its 10th year.

Currently, Limbitless is working with 20 kids from Orlando Health Arnold Palmer's Hospital for Children in a clinical trial. Next year, the company will be arming more kids.

"We've been excited to welcome the first batch of new kids, and excited for 2024 to hopefully be able to scale up our impact," Manero said.

Corrected: January 1, 2024 at 4:26 PM EST
A previous iteration of this story incorrectly listed a name. It should have read Dombrowski.
Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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