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Lytra: Human-inspired body extension by Harry Teng
Lytra: A prosthetic leg by Harry Teng
Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng

Lytra: Human-inspired body extension by Harry Teng

With the waterproof prosthetic leg, amputees can shower safely and maintain hygiene.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : May 04, 2022

An affordable, easy to assemble modular design with interchangeable components that amputees can personalise to fit them like a glove is a sight for sore eyes in a market flooded with expensive medical devices. Industrial designer Harry teng, based in Seattle was inspired to create a shower prosthetic after meeting Phil, an 80-year-old below-knee amputee who allowed him to peruse his daily routine. Driven by the first-hand feedback of the potential clients, Teng introduces Lytra, a lower limb prosthesis that offers users a safe, low-cost standing aid in the shower. After developing conceptual sketches, mockups were developed and tried on by users for feedback and insight. With each mock-up and its corresponding evaluation, the design grew more feasible and functional till the process reached its culmination. “Prosthetics are very expensive medical devices that are usually custom-made to the user to fit their height, weight, and residual limb. Therefore, making a shower-proof prosthetic using the same methods as a regular prosthetic wasn’t enough of a solution because most people wouldn’t be able to afford one anyway,” says Teng.

Lytra is a shower-leg prosthesis for lower limb amputees Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng
The hand grip improves stability and safety Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng

Designed as an assistant to improve day to day functionality while being economically accessible, the product stands out in the unique bond that the users share with it. Through the process of observing the amputees, Teng realised that something as mundane as taking a shower can be a source of anxiety and vexation for people with disabilities. Since the regular prostheses that amputees use on a daily basis have metal components, they are futile in the shower. "Their current solutions when showering can be quite dangerous or troublesome,” points out Teng. “The biggest challenge is entering and exiting the shower. Some amputees must jump to get inside, others may crawl," he explains.

The design process involved multiple mock-ups and experiments Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng
Lytra comes along with a matching drying rack Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng

Inspired by the Charles Eames and Ray Eames Leg splint, Teng developed a series of modular components that can be configured, customised and replaced to suit the user’s body. Lytra is made from medical grade polypropylene sheets and encapsulates six elements: hand grip, fitting system including a nylon strap and a silicone pad, socket, white polypropylene pole, stainless steel pole and a foot pad.

Conceptual development of Lytra Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng
Parts of Lytra that are all interchangeable and customisable Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng

Different heights can be achieved using the stainless steel pole while the adjustable nylon strap and silicon pad help secure the prostheses. The socket, the most essential part, comes in five different sizes to accommodate the varying shapes and sizes of amputees’ limbs. A silicone gel bottom provides soft and comfortable support to the residual limb, which is interchangeable for hygienic purposes. The handgrip and the flexible foot with slip-resistant rubber outsole can be removed and replaced when damaged. “The design must be a modular system with a large degree of adjustability to accommodate a wide range of needs,” says the designer. “Lytra smartly decouples the fitting part, providing comfort and enabling personalization, and the structural part standardised for cost-down reasons,” he adds.

Various mock-ups during the design process Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng
The foot pad is textured to provide a strong grip against the floor Image: Courtesy of Harry Teng

Driven by curiosity and empathy, Harry Teng believes that there are underlying threads that unite technology, design, and art. When aligned and plucked with emotion, the threads exude profound resonance. This metaphorical resonance and harmony can be found in his project Lytra. Through his industrial design, with kinesiology and ergonomics at its core, he empowers people with disabilities. Still in its incubation phase, Teng is seeking a collaboration with skilled engineers to continue elevating the medical device in terms of safety and reliability without compromising the humanistic touch of the prosthesis.

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