Design in prosthetic covers has come a long way in the 19 years since my career in this field began. Through technology and industrial design, amputees have reached a new level of mobility and reclaimed a level of health that was way beyond our wildest dreams even a couple of decades ago. What’s next?
Hype about innovation these days is overwhelming. Words like “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” have become hollow, and it’s getting harder to drill through the noise. I’ve been responsible for some of that noise, however, having led the companies that introduced the first bionic knees and feet to the world, as well as wearable robots that enable people with paralysis to stand and walk.
But innovation isn’t always about hardware and software. It can be much more subtle, like our understanding of the human mind and how we perceive others as well as ourselves.
We now have the luxury of considering the whole person and not just the missing limb. We know that our legs and feet are more than tools to walk with and their presence, or lack thereof, also impact our self-esteem and social interactions.
In spite of all the technological progress, today’s prosthetic devices ““ apparatus with cold metal poles and screws sometimes camouflaged with fake-looking silicone and foam – can’t begin to express who we are and our personal sense of style. It’s not just that they aren’t warm, curvaceous flesh… they’re not “you” or “me” either. They’re machines.
It turns out that 3D printing and amputees are super compatible; so today we are able to restore warmth and a bit of humanity to those prosthetic limbs with attractive custom-designed accessories that turn heads and engage people in conversation because no two are alike and as original as each individual is.