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Scott Summit: Beautiful artificial limbs

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Views 133,265

Prosthetics can't replicate the look and feel of lost limbs but they can carry a lot of personality. Designer Scott Summit shows 3D-printed, individually designed prosthetic legs that are unabashedly artificial and completely personal -- from macho to fabulous.

- Industrial Designer
Scott Summit uses his 20 years of experience as an industrial designer to make artificial limbs that help people take personal control of these intimate objects. Full bio

I'm an industrial designer,
00:13
which means I create all these cool things
00:14
from ideas that we surround ourselves
with, or in this case,
00:16
geeky people surround themselves
with, for the most part.
00:19
I have absolutely no background
in biology, chemistry or engineering,
00:22
so bear with me, because I'll be talking
about biomedical engineering today.
00:27
(Laughter)
00:31
And please do stay here in the meantime.
00:32
Industrial design is about
making lots of things identical.
00:36
The downside about that is,
there's something impersonal
00:40
about lots of identical things,
00:43
because when you're trying
to design one thing for one person
00:44
to solve one issue,
00:47
you can't really do that
00:49
when you're making things
aimed more to a demographic model
00:50
or to a marketing requirements document,
00:53
which is what we live by.
00:56
So I got disheartened
by the whole process in general,
00:57
and went to rethink it
and redesign designing altogether,
01:00
went way back to my early, early
design inspirations,
01:03
and back to about eight years old,
and that got me to this guy.
01:06
Anyone here from MIT knows him
01:11
or has a tattoo or poster
of him somewhere.
01:14
(Laughter)
01:16
Anyone else in the room, just for a hint,
01:17
he is the engineer of engineers
or the designer of designers.
01:19
He is the guy who made bionics
a household word
01:23
in the form of the polyester-clad
Six Million Dollar Man
01:26
that I grew up with.
01:29
The thing that came from
this pop culture show,
01:32
the real takeaway, was two main things:
01:34
if you're designing for the person,
for a real person,
01:37
you don't settle for the minimum
functional requirements;
01:40
you see how far beyond that you can go,
01:43
where the rewards really are
way out in the fringe
01:45
of how far past that document you can go.
01:47
And if you can nail that,
01:50
you stand to improve
the quality of life for somebody
01:51
for every moment
for the rest of their life.
01:54
I kind of distilled that down
into a design philosophy,
01:56
and infuse that
into the studio that I have now;
02:00
I'm trying to get everyone
to think along these lines.
02:03
It's not a profound philosophy,
but it works for us.
02:06
We work with prosthetic limbs,
02:12
and the first thing you see
about prosthetic limbs
02:14
is that they are engineering brilliance.
02:17
They can do amazing things;
02:20
they can return all kinds
of functionality and performance
02:21
back to somebody's life.
02:25
But from the vantage
of an industrial designer,
02:26
they're not quite there.
02:29
What we don't see is the sculpture
or the beauty or the individual qualities
02:30
or the uniqueness or the elegance to them.
02:34
They are brilliant, mechanical,
utilitarian devices.
02:37
And that's great, except
for a lot of people, that doesn't work.
02:42
People come to our studio all the time,
02:45
and they have bubble wrap and duct tape,
02:47
trying to approximate their original form.
02:50
Or they'll have a gym sock
stuffed with other gym socks
02:53
to try to recreate
the shape that once was;
02:55
and that, to us, is not thriving.
02:58
The body, to us,
is not a mechanical entity,
03:01
where mechanical-only solutions
can address them.
03:04
It's our personal sculpture,
our kinematic sculpture.
03:07
It is our canvas;
03:10
it represents not just our physicality,
03:11
but also a lot of our personality as well.
03:13
So when you're designing for the body,
03:15
maybe the thing isn't to design
for mass production,
03:17
but to design with the body in mind,
03:20
to really think about curves
instead of hard geometry,
03:22
or uniqueness instead of identical.
03:25
The problem is, we're constrained
by mass production,
03:28
which makes a million identical things
03:30
but can't make one unique,
individualized thing.
03:32
So we scrapped that
in the new design process,
03:35
and we start with the person.
03:37
This is a three-dimensional scanner,
03:39
and that's what happens
when you scan somebody:
03:41
you get three-dimensional data
into your computer.
03:43
You can take the sound-side limb there,
the surviving limb, mirror it over,
03:46
and from now on,
03:51
anything in the process
will recreate symmetry --
03:52
something as personal
and as hard to achieve
03:54
as symmetry in the body.
03:56
And you create a product
that, no matter what,
03:58
it's going to be as unique
as their fingerprint.
04:01
In fact, our process is incapable
of creating two identical things.
04:03
So we run it through
computer modeling, 3D CAD.
04:06
Here, we actually infuse a lot
of the individual's taste and personality
04:10
into it, everywhere we can,
04:15
and we three-dimensionally
print the results.
04:17
We call the resulting parts "fairings,"
04:19
because they're named
after the panels on a motorcycle
04:21
that turn it from a mechanical thing
into a sculptural thing.
04:24
We tried this on Chad.
04:27
Chad is a competitive soccer player,
04:31
lost his leg eight years ago to cancer.
04:33
You can imagine,
it's really tricky to play soccer
04:35
when you have titanium pipe
where there used to be a leg.
04:37
The resulting parts recreated his shape
04:40
and deliberately had an aesthetic
that look like sporting gear.
04:45
We wanted it to make it look like
he just pulled it out of the gym bag,
04:48
so it's fairly utilitarian in that regard.
04:51
Two things happened.
04:53
One, we expected: his sense
of his body came back to him.
04:55
He was suddenly able to control
the ball, to feel the ball,
04:59
because his body remembered
that original shape that he had had
05:02
up until eight years ago.
05:05
The other thing, though,
is that the other members of the team
05:06
stopped thinking of him
as the amputee on the team.
05:09
Not that they didn't know, but it stopped
becoming a focal point for him.
05:12
And there is a certain
very quiet value in that,
05:16
we like to believe.
05:19
James lost his leg in a motorcycle crash.
05:21
And the motorcycle is still a big part
of James's personality and style.
05:24
Check out the tattoo on his forearm.
05:27
We three-dimensionally printed that
into what would be his calf.
05:30
He has his tattoo, he has his morphology
05:34
and he has the materials
of his motorcycle.
05:37
And the result is interesting in that
you can't really tell at first glance
05:39
where the motorcycle stops
and where James starts.
05:44
It's kind of a chimera hybrid
between the two,
05:46
and James likes that.
05:50
(Laughter)
05:52
So, we don't ever try to make something
look like it could be human.
05:55
Our whole goal is to be
unapologetically man-made,
05:59
to take what's already there, morphology,
06:02
and just make it really
cool and beautiful,
06:05
something that somebody
can't wait to show the world,
06:07
because that changes their look.
06:09
You don't look at him and say,
"He's an amputee with a prosthetic."
06:11
You say, "He's a guy
with something really cool going on.
06:14
Deborah wanted her curves back,
06:17
but she also just wanted
what came out of it to be really sexy,
06:19
which is great for us to hear.
06:23
We created this lace pattern
that lends itself well to 3D printing.
06:25
We created the first leg, I think,
06:29
where the lace defines
the contour of the leg,
06:31
instead of the leg
giving form to the lace.
06:35
We switched things over.
06:38
What I like about this shot
is you can see daylight through it.
06:40
So we're not trying to hide anything;
06:43
the load-bearing carbon component
is totally visible.
06:44
We're just giving it form
and shape and contours
06:47
that were hers to begin with.
06:51
We made her another leg
that matched her purse,
06:54
just because we could.
06:56
(Laughter)
06:58
(Applause)
07:02
We made another one
where we laser-tattooed the leather,
07:07
because how cool would it be
07:10
to be able to change your tattoos out
from one minute to the next?
07:11
Love that.
07:14
We try to capture as much
of somebody's personality as we can.
07:16
This is George.
His will be finished next week.
07:19
This is the raw computer data
that we deal with.
07:23
He's kind of a classic,
timeless-type personality,
07:26
so we did herringbone tweed,
but in polished nickel.
07:29
(Laughter)
07:32
And Uve was all too proud
to show his tattoos,
07:34
so we are laser-tattooing those
into the leather.
07:36
Part of it is, yes, we're showing off,
because we can do this,
07:40
but the other part is this connects him
to what will be a part of him.
07:43
That is something really valuable;
we believe in that.
07:46
Tattoos are especially exciting for us.
07:49
What happens if you take the tattoo,
07:51
which is a combination
of somebody's personal taste and choice,
07:53
and their morphology,
07:56
but now, let's say, you remove the person.
07:57
You get a free-floating tattoo
defining their body.
08:00
So everything we do is about recreating
and expressing something
08:04
that means something to that person,
08:08
and expressing that through
what would be their body,
08:10
whether it's speed or attitude or bling,
08:13
whatever it is that captures
and suggests them in the best way we can.
08:16
Back to the 3D-printing thing
and this whole process:
08:22
we have a process that lends itself
to making one thing per person;
08:24
it's very individual, and it actually
really lends itself well to complexity.
08:28
So why not just print the entire leg?
08:31
That's the concept that preceded
the work we're doing now.
08:33
This is a three-dimensionally printed leg.
It's symmetric to the other leg.
08:37
It is made in America,
08:42
it is a trivially low-carbon footprint
to create, curbside recyclable,
08:44
costs about 4,000 dollars to create,
08:50
and it is dishwasher-safe.
08:52
(Laughter)
08:55
There's a value to that, too.
08:57
People don't think
about that all the time,
08:58
but yes, throw it in the dishwasher,
it works just great.
09:00
This was based on the original idea
that I could go anywhere in the world
09:03
with nothing more than a camera
and a laptop computer,
09:07
use the camera as a 3D scanner and create
for somebody, in a matter of hours,
09:09
a very high-quality, three-dimensionally
printed leg for a very low cost.
09:13
The proof of concept works great,
we're finding it; we'll get there.
09:17
Or, we upped the quality of the materials
and created this for John.
09:21
The fun thing with John's leg
is that when his fiancee looked at this,
09:25
she joked and said, "I like that leg
better than that leg."
09:30
(Laughter)
09:33
And it's a joke -- she knows full well
what he goes through --
09:35
but at the same time,
there's something very valuable.
09:39
He turned to us and said,
"Nobody says that."
09:41
He's never heard that in his life.
09:43
That connected with him very deeply.
09:45
So we like to think
that this is a new type of design,
09:48
where you're turning
the original process on its head,
09:51
where there is a dialogue that forms
between the designer and the end user,
09:55
where the designer relinquishes
some of the control --
09:59
designers hate doing that --
10:02
and instead, is the curator of a process.
10:03
And the end user relinquishes their body
into the process, and their taste.
10:06
I'd like to think that speaks
to a greater change that's happening
10:11
in the design world altogether;
10:14
in this case, it's one where
products will be evaluated
10:15
on how well they address the individual.
10:19
The individual will actually be
part of the DNA of the end product itself.
10:23
We will be evaluating products
on how well they address a unique person,
10:28
instead of a demographic model.
10:32
This all really hit home for us
in one of the first legs we did;
10:35
when Chad here put on the leg,
10:39
reached down and felt it
10:41
and thought about it for a while.
10:43
Then he turned to us and said,
10:45
"That's the first time I've felt
that shape in eight years."
10:46
We thought about that.
10:50
And for all the technology
10:52
and all the nights
and energy we put into it,
10:53
that's all we really wanted to hear.
10:56
Thanks.
10:58
(Applause)
10:59
Translated by TED Translators Admin
Reviewed by Camille Martínez

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About the speaker:

Scott Summit - Industrial Designer
Scott Summit uses his 20 years of experience as an industrial designer to make artificial limbs that help people take personal control of these intimate objects.

Why you should listen

Scott Summit is the founder and chief technology officer of Bespoke Innovations. Founded in 2010 in collaboration with an orthopaedic surgeon, their focus is to create individualized artificial limbs that the patients themselves can choose and personalize. With more than 20 patents to his name, he has held faculty positions at Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Singularity University. He is also the founder of industrial design firm Summit ID.

More profile about the speaker
Scott Summit | Speaker | TED.com