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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Nacho Vilanova

Having lived in Oslo, New Delhi, Jakarta, Madrid, Budapest, Brussels, Barcelona and currently in London, Nacho developed an interest in addressing individual societal issues, while celebrating culture diversity. This passion motivated Nacho to bridge the gap between science and society and make him understand that design is present in all aspects of our lives. As he simply puts it: design your own world. 

His background in Industrial Design at the Istituto Europeo di Design (Barcelona) enabled him to participate in the Challenge Based Innovation (CBI) Programme at CERN, where he tackled the following challenge: How can technology help in the psychological rehabilitation of traffic accident survivors? This experience eventually led Nacho to pursue a double master's degree in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. 

Nacho's awards include being shortlisted for the Hay Young Bird Talent Award in 2020, an Honorable Mention at the London International Creative Competition (LICC) in 2018 for his "Z-Leuchte" Lamp, being part of the winning team for Oarsis' AR/VR Startup Competition in 2017 in Madrid and the Master Innovator title for the CBI programme in 2016 in Geneva. 




Degree Details

School of Design

Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Although tennis is one of the most inclusive sports for disabilities, players seem nevertheless to be more limited by the tools they use rather than their physical limitations. Current prosthetics for arm amputees tend to have two recurring issues: a fixed grip and a wrong directional angle to support the racket. Not being able to rotate the grip and hitting the ball at the correct angle favours injury development and consequently reduces comfort, control and power over the ball, as well as rendering the entire experience unpleasant. 

Hence, players struggle to compensate for the lack of freedom of racket movement with current designs. There is not any other alternative but to learn and play all over again with the non-dominant arm. Going through this process can result in frustration and a lower self-esteem, specifically for more advanced players. 

Volta is a tennis prosthetic designed for transradial amputees who lost their limb as a result of trauma or disease. 

The first in its kind to address this issue, Volta is a versatile prosthetic for tennis with the potential to create a new category of high-level tennis gameplay for arm amputees by allowing them to rotate the grip of their racket. Volta seeks to challenge the negative perception of prosthetics by providing a sense of identity through tennis culture association to its wearer.

Disability Tennis Overview

Rehabilitation Process Overview

Racket Attachment — A simulation on how current prosthetic models are strapped onto the amputee's forearm.

Challenge 02 — Despite some minor improvements in ergonomics and materials, the essence of tennis racket prosthetics has remained the same over the course of 68 years: a fixed extension of the forearm.

Volta Experiment 1
Current tennis racket prosthetics are strapped onto the player's forearm. Although it might seem intuitive to have the racket in this position as an extension of the Radius and Ulna bones, it comes nevertheless with a set of challenges:

· Having the racket's head strapped at a shorter distance results in a loss of balance and coordination.
· Holding the racket at a fixed (and wrong) angle results in discomfort
· Having a fixed grip (not being able to rotate) results in a loss of control, power and speed.

With all the aforementioned challenges, how is tennis meant to be a pleasurable and enjoyable experience for amputees?

Volta 3/4 Front View

Volta 3/4 Back View

How It Works
While there is always a material solution to any given problem, the comprehension of the psychological
aspects is often neglected. The functional aspect seems to be the only variable taken into account, while often neglecting emotional attachment and weight.

How wonderful would it be if there was a solution that would reassure and empower transradial amputees to continue playing tennis like they used to, while also removing the negative connotations of wearing a prosthetic?

Fashion Statement — Vota's design is inspired by the values associated with tennis such as elegance, quality, honesty and sportsmanship.

Humanising The Mechanical — Body acceptance is a challenge many face nowadays, both disabled and non-disabled individuals.

The purpose of a prosthetic should go beyond being a functional tool. They should be regarded as an accessory that complements the wearer's personality.

The same way people freely chose how they dress to represent themselves and part of their identity, so should amputees with prosthetics. By losing a limb, a person loses part of their identity and change the way they perceive themselves [1]. Volta seeks to provide a sense of belonging and of a new identity to its wearer by referencing tennis fashion and culture in its design.

[1] Emotional & Psychological Reactions to Amputations.

Semi-Western Grip - Forehand Stroke

Semi-Western Grip - Standby

Continental Grip - Serve

Physically impaired players seems to be more limited by the tools they use rather than their physical limitations. Thanks to its rotating grip mechanism, Volta offers more control, power and comfort, while empowering amputees to play tennis to a more advanced gameplay than what is currently played.

Volta Prototype Mark 1

Silicone Over-Grip Prototype

Anatomy Sketches

Ideation Sketches

John Willis — John was born without fully formed arms and legs. His vision of achieving inclusion through sports pushed him to raise awareness and participate in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, in which he completed all 34 Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. Although John is not the target user for this project, his experience, familiarity with sports equipment, and more particularly tennis, made his perspective crucial to better understand the challenges faced by amputees while playing.

Alex Lewis — Alex suffered from a severe Streptococcus group A infection, resulting in the amputation of his four limbs. Although he is not the target user for this project, his case has some similarities such as losing a limb to trauma/disease, and because he was able to keep his right elbow joint (providing him a larger degree of movement), he had to switch from being left-handed to right-handed. This testimony will provide valuable feedback on the use of prosthetics and the psychological aspect of having to swap hand dexterity.

To John Willis:
Thank you for inspiring and providing me with the reassurance I needed for this project. Please continue being the beacon of hope that you have been for so many throughout your life.

To Alex Lewis:
Thank you for the faith you have shown towards this project since the beginning, for all the prosthetic material you lent for study and for all the lovely conversations we have had.

In Collaboration with:

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