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21 Mar 2016
Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust Wins Funding Award from Google

3D Imaging prototype

5-year old boy with Jaipur Foot

Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust (RNCT) is one of the three Indian NGOs that have won the global Google Impact Challenge for Disabilities 2015 award for proposals that make an impact on the lives of people with disabilities using emerging technologies. RNCT was set up by Late Mahendra G. Mehta and his wife Asha Mehta, who now runs it along with their son Rajiv Mehta.

The Trust will receive funding for development and scaling up of a new project based on a revolutionary idea for use of 3D scanning and cloud technology to help people who need to be fitted with artificial limbs.

The global Google Impact Challenge for disabilities was open to NGOs from around the world. They were invited to submit ideas that would make a real, positive impact for people living with disabilities. Worldwide Google will invest US$ 20 million for this purpose. RNCT, Leprosy Mission Trust India and Public Health Foundation India will receive about Rs 54 million (US$800,000) in funding.

Post submission of the proposal to Google in September last year, the Trust has been carrying out research at BETiC - Biomedical Engineering and Technology (incubation) Centre at IIT Bombay to develop this technology.

There are over 5 million people in India who have lost one or both legs. Living in poverty and/or in rural interiors, they lack access to adequate medical services in a city to get a prosthetic leg. One key bottleneck in the process is the manufacturing of the socket to fit the stump of the residual leg. This is very time consuming and seldom is accurate in measurement, often causing injury to the amputee.

RNCT’s proposal will completely change the way the prosthetic leg has been fitted and manufactured, using 3D scanning technologies to accurately capture and transmit 3D models of the residual limb. Low-cost 3D printing technologies will then be used to fabricate plastic models and thus design comfortable and yet affordable transfemoral sockets.

Using scanners, technicians deployed in the field can quickly and accurately measure residual limb dimensions and beam the data to the Cloud from where it will be downloaded by the manufacturing center to design and manufacture perfectly fitting prostheses.

A prosthesis manufactured by this method will be called a Ratnanidhi Leg.

The new process will also enable rehabilitation engineers to deliver prosthetic legs to the amputees and landmine victims in the most rural and vulnerable populations in a shorter time. It will help in doubling the current capacity of RNCT to serve rural locations easily and cost effectively, avoid the need for transporting mold materials to the location of the amputee and minimize their need to travel to the NGO center.

The project is a unique three-way colloboration between an NGO, an academic institution and a large tech company.

RNCT has been working with physically challenged people for over 25 years and aided more than 2.5 lakh disabled people. The Trust has deep grassroot level experience and an in depth understanding of the problems associated with rehabilitation, and is now working on a technology-based solution to tackle these in India and across the globe.

IIT Bombay’s BETIC has skills in cutting edge technology and a dynamic reasearch team with expertise in diverse area such as biomedical, engineering, prosthetic engineering etc, while Google.org has invested in RNCT’s vision.

Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org said, "Google.org is pleased to invest in the visions of Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust. Through their innovative applications of technology, they are developing new solutions that will improve the lives of people with disabilities in India and around the world."

RNCT Trustee Rajiv Mehta says, “Our Vision is to use our grassroots experience in working with physically challenged people to collaborate with academia and a technology giant to create cutting edge futuristic products at low cost which can empower the amputees to walk again with pride.”

Mehta adds that RNCT and BETiC will document the whole process, develop training modules, and make them available online, thereby empowering all other NGOs working in this field globally. “This is expected to further expand the capacity of the NGOs in reaching out to every amputee who needs a low-cost prosthetic leg free of cost,” he concludes.


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