The San Francisco startup is a partnership between an orthopedic surgeon and an industrial designer. People buy bespoke suits, bespoke shoes, and bespoke furniture, goes their thinking. If people care about personalized touches on things they merely wear or sit on, then wouldn't they feel similarly about things that actually become a part of their body?
Bespoke Innovations' prosthetic limb casings can be "wrapped in embroidered leather, shimmering metal," or just about anything else. "I wanted to create a leg that had a level of humanity," Scott Summit, the designer half of the team, told the New York Times back in September. "It’s unfortunate that people have had a product that’s such a major part of their lives that was so underdesigned."
Here's how it works: customers show up at the San Francisco studio, where they have their measurements taken. Bespoke then sends back a 3-D prototype that you can check out in your web browser, and offers a library of patterns to chose from. "We can do a midcentury modern or a Harley aesthetic if that’s what someone wants," Summit told the Times.
Indeed, Bespoke calls its casings "fairings," using a term from motorcycle design. "If we can get to flexible wood, I am totally going to cut my own leg off," he jokes.
Bespoke is "still in a beta stage," CEO Paul Lego tells Fast Company, and has offered services free of charge to something like a dozen beta customers. Folks can go on to its site to join a waiting list, which already has quite a few members signed up. Since the fairings are considered an FDA Class 1 device, requiring certification, Bespoke can't yet officially sell them. Lego hopes that will change by the first quarter of 2011. The fairings will cost $4,000 and up.
And what does Bespoke intend to do with the new funding? "Our ambitions are much broader than just prosthetic fairings," is all Lego will say. Currently, Bespoke only sells the casings, not tailor-made limbs themselves. But with the fresh funding, it should be able to experiment with full, customizable limbs. Summit applied early for a patent on the fairings, and secured it after years of waiting. "We've been working on a lot of other IP," says Lego.
[Image: Bespoke Innovations]