University of Delaware researchers are using Google Glass for a more affordable way to fit and manufacture leg braces, and hope soon to use the technology to fabricate prosthetics.  

Jingyi Yu, a computer and information sciences professor, leads a team using Google Glass to capture videos of the foot and lower leg of test subjects. Those videos are then stitched together into 3-D models and transformed into a template for a 3-D printer.

“Essentially, this will allow anyone wearing the Glass to look around the foot and ankle, and the glass will then capture a video, and we then apply computer vision technologies to recover the 3-D model instantly,” Yu said.

Traditionally, patients are fitted for braces and prosthetics by a doctor or technician using a large measuring device with a robotic arm. 

The machine costs tens of thousands of dollars and requires patients to travel to a clinic for fitting, Yu said.

“This can be done very easily at home, at the office, anywhere,” Yu said of using his Google Glass method.

Yu's team has made three foot braces that he says come close to the quality and precision of those created using more traditional measuring methods.

Next month, the team is applying for National Institutes of Health funding to expand into prosthetic manufacturing and develop a marketable product.   

Yu’s ultimate goal is to allow people to take measurements and print prosthetics all from home.

Brandon Boulden, manager of 3-D printing and imaging at Philadelphia's NextFab studio, said 3-D printers and sophisticated smartphones are bringing formerly high-tech activities within reach of more people.

"Currently the trend is being able to get manufacturing into consumer hands, people that are not everyday engineers, everyday manufacturers, that is the end goal for many people,” Boulden said.