Million Hands Project in the News

CITRIS published an article  by journalist Saemmool Lee about our Million Hands project, “a 2017 CITRIS seed-funded project that aims to build an open-source platform for customizable, functional, and low-cost prosthetic hands, has been making progress in developing 3D-printed prosthetic hands with more robust capability.”


According to Alice Agogino, a Berkeley mechanical engineering professor and one of three principal investigators of Million Hands, the project was motivated by “Sophie’s Super Hand,” a custom-fitted, 3D-printed prosthetic hand designed for Sophie Mercer by graduate student Daniel Lim in 2015. Sophie’s Super Hand provided the aesthetics of a “Super Hand” along with some functionality – the ability to pick up small items such as toys and foods, for example. The Million Hands project team has been developing hands capable of grabbing and holding objects, and building models that can easily scale based on users’ needs as they grow.

The Million Hands project was awarded CITRIS seed funding in 2017 and continued with six M.Eng students and two PhD students over the last year. Berkeley alumnus and philanthropist Dennis Chan has pledged to support the effort for four years. O’Connell’s “Designing for the Human Body” course, which includes a project to make a 3D-printed hand and redesign it for functionality, is also supported by Chan. With this funding, the project is able to continue through 2018-19 with a team of five M.Eng students and a PhD student.

The team published a peer-reviewed paper, “Customization of a 3D Printed Prosthetic Finger Using Parametric Modeling,” in the proceedings of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) International Design Engineering Technical Conferences this summer, where they demonstrated how to scale prosthetic hands for different hands shapes easily.

Mechanical engineering PhD student Tomas Georgiou, a member of the Million Hands team, talks about two avenues he wants to pursue. “The first is utilizing parametric modeling in hand-prosthesis designing so that the model matches the user’s unique dimensions more closely and automatically scales,” says Georgiou. “The second has to do with developing functionally-specific prostheses for playing drums. The goal is to create an effective replication of finger and wrist function to improve user control, dexterity, and overall ability for musical expression.”

Agogino says that each individual has a unique hand and may need multiple prosthetics for different applications such as playing guitar, hanging on a jungle gym, or dancing. The team’s vision is to create an open-source online platform that has a database of all prosthetic hands, where each customer can get their best combination for both aesthetics and functionality. It would be an AI-enabled platform, says Agogino. “Pick the best one for a new person coming in, use artificial intelligence to select the right base case, and then refine it and customize for a particular individual,” she says.

Caption: Aastha Shah (M.Eng’18) demonstrates a prosthetic hand prototype at the Fung Institute. Photo credit: Adriel Olmos.

Featured image caption at top: The Lawrence Hall of Science displayed prototypes of Million Hands projects this summer, in collaboration with the CITRIS Invention Lab.


  • The Million Hands Platform, Master of Engineering Capstone Report 2017-2018: Million Hands Capstone Report 2018
  • Beyond Hands, Master of Engineering Capstone Report 2018-2019: 2018-19-Beyond-Hands
  • Development of Upper Limb Assistive Devices and a Variable Stiffness Mechanism for Potential Use in Prosthetics and Orthosis (PhD Dissertation)