As we all just witnessed in the Olympics, a double amputee, Oscar Pistorious, ran and competed as one of the elite runners in the 400m races. This was one of the best feel good stories of the recently ended Olympics. I was thrilled by what Oscar Pistorious accomplished in the Olympics and was curious of how these prosthetic legs could be more then just utilitarian. How could these be designed to not only look more human, but more visually enticing as well? With a little bit of investigation, I found that there are a few companies working to do just that.
Bespoke Fairings is a firm that specializes in creating custom coverings for prosthetic legs. They can range from material coverings such as leather, ballistic nylon fabric, chrome plating, and even tattoos. Bespoke believes in creating an individual piece that not only is a integral part of a disabled persons life, enabling them to live a normal life, but also be a conversation piece. No longer do you have to have a bare shaft of metal coming down from your knee, but you can have a piece of art that is a part of you. Even Ecko Brand is coming into this market with a design. Other big name designers such as Nike and Adidas also have come in with cutting edge designs.
I was not only interested with the look of these artificial limbs, but also about the upcoming technology that is being put into them. Jorge Rui and Machado R. Silvia are a group of designers that have come up with a concept leg that utilizes a new technology that operates the leg like a faux muscle. The leg combines structural steel with programmable deformation zones to give a realistic feel. But if that is not enough, it also has a neuro-circuit that relays information to the brain for more responsive movements. This technology may not be available till at least 2050 though. All in all, prosthetic legs have come a long way from the wooden legs of pirates. By blending together industrial design, graphic design, fashion design and healthcare technologies, we can create functioning mechanical art work that is attached to us!