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—  Medical Design     Industrial Design     Human-centered Design  —

 

A prosthetic leg concept that empowers climbers to go beyond their limits.

 
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Inspired by mountain goats and their exceptional climbing ability, Klippa is a prosthetic leg concept designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. Its unique features augment human capabilities and challenge the limitations of existing prosthetic legs, allowing amputees to climb more efficiently and comfortably.

Klippa has been featured in several online publications, including Core77, Wired UK, Gizmodo and more.

 
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Mountain Goats, Nature's Greatest Climbers

Mountain goats are much better climbers than humans. After watching a YouTube video of mountain goats climbing a nearly vertical dam in Southern Italy, I did research on these natural athletes and found out about their uniquely structured hooves that help them stand on steep surfaces. 

 

Split Hooves
Hooves squeeze to grasp rock; split under pressure to apply energy more efficiently.

 
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Rubber-like Sole
Hard, sharp edges add traction and soft inner area creates suction.

 
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Design Opportunties

Rock climbing is a popular sport among amputees who maintain an active lifestyle.

 
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So what's the problem?

Most prosthetic legs on the market are only designed for walking, not for rock climbing.

 
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What's wrong with current prosthetic?

 
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Wrong Size
In addition to wearing climbing shoes to add traction, amputee climbers often flip their prosthetic foot because of its large size.

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Passive Articulation
Passive articulation works well for repetitive movements like running. But for sports like climbing, it requires limited ankle articulation to adapt to different surfaces.

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Strength Loss
Rock climbing is a strenuous sport, and it can be difficult for amputees who are missing strength from their leg muscles.

 
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User Interview +
Concept Validation

To begin my research, I first went to a local rock climbing gym in Brooklyn and interviewed experienced two-leg climbers. These climbing experts provided many important insights on how they utilize their ankles, legs and bodies to keep their balance on the wall while climbing. 

To further understand amputees' climbing experience, I strapped on some foam stilts to mimic of the effects of not having sensory feedback coming from my feet. I tried three different sizes, and in the end I discovered that the half-human-foot-size foam stilts allowed me to easily stand on small surfaces/rocks.

 

 
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Research Insights

 
 
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Toe Strength
Climbing requires the use of toes. Having the right foot shape allows climbers to stabilize their bodies on the wall.
 

 
 
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Half Size
The result of my testing reveals that it is ideal to climb with a foot that is about half the size of an average human foot.
 

 
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Elastic Articulation
Elastic ankle joint with limited range of motion can potentially provide shock absorption and comfort for climbers.
 

 
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Cloven Hooves
This unique feature is one of the reasons why mountain goats are such good climbers. I would like use this feature in my final design.
 

 
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Product Development Process

Using the insights from research as guideline, I began sketching, exploring color, materials and finish, and making prototypes (both exploratory and appearance). The end result is a cohesive design that embodies the aesthetic of a rock climber.

 
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Elastic Pivot Joint

Klippa features an elastic joint to provide proper ankle articulation. The ankle pivots slightly forward when the pressure is applied to the tip of the foot. With the help of the elastic cord, the internal spring returns the ankle back to its starting position when the pressure is released. The elasticity of the joint provides shock absorption.
 

 
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1.Hoof-like Sole

 Under pressure, the hoof like sole expands and pushes outward, creating a strong grip between the sole and the rock surface.
 

2.Small Size


The shoe is about half the size of an average human foot. Climbers can wedge their foot and perform heel strike with the textured heel.

3.Replaceable

The hard rubber shoe and shin guard provide stability and protection. They are also detachable so climbers can replace them easily.

 
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So what's next?

collaboration underway

After receiving recognition from James Dyson Award, I have been seeking collaboration opportunities. Currently I'm working with film studio Bows and Arrows and an amputee climber Craig Demartino. Together we want to make Klippa a reality. Stay tuned!

 
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