Andy Sigler
Carl Jamilkowski
Will Canine


OpenLimbs is the culmination of our exploration of muscle control. It is an open API for controlling human arms.

Biomechanics for Interactive Design

Open Limbs is a platform for controlling human arms over the internet. Any assistive, educational, or entertainment device can interface and provide the control for a volunteer's arm. Using Open Limbs, individuals can volunteer their body for control by people who may have never controlled an arm (including their own) before. On this site you will find an example for an iPhone to arm connection, as well as code snippets so you can do it yourself.

OpenLimbs is the culmination of our exploration of two such augmenting technologies: neuro-muscular electro-stimulation (NMES) and passive arm augments like the WREX system.

NMES can be used to control muscles in the body using super-dermal conductors and a pulse generating circuit and varying the output current. The when the current is high enough, the pulse fires the nerves connected to the muscles, causing them to contract. Thus, muscles can be controlled from outside of the body.

However, muscles moving in this way are not nearly as strong as muscles operating in normal conditions -- which is where the WREX system comes in. WREX is an exoskeletal device designed to help people with neuromuscular disabilities -- people whose nerves and muscles need extra help fighting against gravity and preforming normal movements.

By combining the WREX and NMES, we achieved more fluidity and responsiveness in non-autonomous arm control than possible otherwise.

We are interested in showing this to anyone interested, and allowing them the opportunity to control one of our arms through various interfaces.

User Scenario
At the show, we will take it in turns to volunteer our bodies for control. The show attendees could then use their iPhone or one of the physical interfaces (such as the skeleton's arm as seen on our website) to control the volunteer's arm.

Everything is currently working! We do want to do another round of changes -- strengthening the elastic, adding ball bearings to the joints, etc -- to the WREX system, but otherwise it is ready to go.

The most interesting part of this process has been other people's reactions. None seem to be unimpressed; everyone either wants badly to try it themselves, give their arms up for control and feel NMES, or deeply unsettled by the very possibility being demonstrated in front of them. This is a discussion we feel has only just begun, and we would love the opportunity to show more people the possibilities of non-autonomous movement.