Interactive Art +

Auszeichnung - Award of Distinction

OpenSurgery - a do-it-yourself surgery robot for domestic laparoscopy

Frank Kolkman (NL)


With OpenSurgery, Frank Kolkman speculates on the potential for advanced do-it-yourself surgical tools to possibly support more accessible alternatives to the increasingly expensive health services worldwide.

Inspiration for the project came from the discovery that uninsured Americans are using YouTube to share videos in which they perform medical and dental hacks on themselves as an alternative to professional care. These videos speak about how the profit-driven medical industries are widening the gap between those who can afford healthcare and those who cannot. Forcing certain groups of people to look for treatment outside of the official systems.

Extrapolating on this phenomenon, OpenSurgery proposes a do-it-yourself robot assisted surgery system for use in domestic keyhole surgery. By combining 3D printing and laser cutting with hacked surgical pieces and components bought online, the robot trades medical compliance for accessibility and easy distribution. Although it still requires a surgeon to operate it, with help of the files, it could theoretically be replicated almost anywhere at a mere fraction of the cost of commercial surgical instruments, challenging many of the assumptions and legally formulated standards that exist within the heavily regulated medical sector.

Even though the current prototype is functional to an extent, it is not nearly stable enough to be used in surgery yet. In its current state however it proves there is potential for alternative communities to assemble aroundand explore profoundly different approaches to - medical technologies. Admittedly also raising a number of ethical, psychological, and legal concerns.

Instead of providing an immediate solution, OpenSurgery intends to facilitate discussion about alternative models of healthcare. Through provocation it investigates the socioeconomic values associated with medical practice and questions the preferability of the market driven healthcare narratives we have grown so accustomed to.


Frank Kolkman

Frank Kolkman (NL) is a Dutch-born artist / designer interested in unpicking the social, economic and ethical implications of current and near-future technologies. Thematically addressing issues of technological access and ownership, his projects display a broad understanding of design and production. Works include experimental devices, critical prototypes, and fictional scenarios. Frank holds a master’s degree in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art (London, United Kingdom) and a bachelor’s degree in Product Design from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts (Arnhem, Netherlands).

OpenSurgery was developed as a graduation project at the Design Interactions department of the Royal College of Art (London UK, 2015). The initial concept originated from the Healthcare Futures Workshop at the KYOTO Design Lab (D-Lab) at the Kyoto Institute for Technology (Kyoto JP, 2014).
Thanks To:
Dr. James Auger (Design Interactions, Royal College of Art, London UK)
Professor Anthony Dunne (Design Interactions, Royal College of Art, London UK)
Professor Julia Cassim (D-Lab, Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kyoto JP)
Medical consulting: Dr. Martin Jaere (MSk Lab, Imperial College Hospital, London UK)
Photography and general support: Juuke Schoorl
Software / Interface: Riccardo Lardi, Marcel Helmer
Website / Healthcare Futures Workshop: Henrik Nieratschker
DIY Health Consulting: Anne-Marie Geurink
Machining: Leo Kolkman
Materials sponsor: Marco Heezen (
Healthcare Futures Workshop: Matthieu Cherubini, Jaime Garcia
All tutors and staff at the Design Interactions department (Royal College of Art, London UK) and the KYOTO Design Lab (Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kyoto JP).