Future of Health: The Open Prosthetics Project

PSFK speaks with Jon Kuniholm, founder of a project aiming to bring open source collaboration to the world of assistive technology.

PSFK Future of Health.jpg

Open Prosthetics Project

As part of the Future of Health report published last week, we interviewed key innovators during our research to illuminate ideas and innovation developing in healthcare.

The Open Prosthetics Project is producing useful innovations in the field of prosthetics and freely sharing the designs. This project is an open source collaboration between users, designers and funders with the goal of making creations available for anyone to use and build upon.

Jon Kuniholm, founder of the project, shares his thoughts with us below:

What do you describe your vision for how this project will help shape to the future of health?

Patient engagement in health care is not at all unique to the Open Prosthetics Project. What I think is amazing about all of these related efforts is what they have accomplished using very unsophisticated tools. Despite the promise of much more sophisticated use of the social graphs that their interactions with each other and with data, the successes have come using the most basic of tools, like blogs, list servs, and other last generation internet features.

Once patient engagement tools catch up to the true promise of Web 2.0, allowing users to help bring in content from many sources, users will significantly add value through the information that they layer on top. As more stakeholder groups (industry, academia, clinicians) are dynamically engaged from within in their existing workflows, I think that we are going to see a dramatic increase in the pace of innovation in these spaces, and people are going to demonstrate uses of these tools that we haven’t even imagined yet. While patients are necessary, they are not sufficient, and it is the interplay among all of these stakeholder groups that must occur.

My hope is that forums like the Open Prosthetics Project serve as disruptive technology to begin to engage all of these groups, allowing us to rethink many of our society’s models for innovation in spaces where it has, for the most part, stagnated.

What other health-related issues do you hope to change (or would like to see change) in the future?

There are many reasons for the lack of innovation in underserved communities, and a lack of communication is but one of them. Other barriers, such as small market size and a lack of commercial incentive, poor follow-through in ensuring the results of government an other research expenditures, and the lack of standards for modular product design are but a few that might be corrected through better transparency and communication. These fundamental issues, however, must be addressed if we hope to effectively make other necessary changes however.

What is one of the more interesting developments you’ve seen in the realm of technology assisting humans?

I think that what is called open design or open hardware is, and will continue to be, one of the most significant developments in assistive technology. Assistive tech is, by its nature, often highly customized, and the dual developments of open hardware and mass customized production promise to make customization and adaptation to individual needs much cheaper and more accessible. As with the use of Web 2.0 tools, the real promise of these innovations will extend far beyond the more mundane uses that will be driven by mass markets and we will see a revolution in what is possible through the empowerment of lead users of technology through these tools.

The Open Prosthetics Project

image by J.R

PSFK’s Future of Health Report details 15 trends that will impact health and wellness around the world. Simple advances such as off-the-grid energy and the introduction of gaming into healthcare service offerings sit alongside more future-forward developments such as bio-medical printing. The report includes concepts for UNICEF based on the trends provided by the world’s leading advertising and design agencies. It is our hope that this report will inspire your thinking and lead to services, applications and technologies which will allow for more available, quality healthcare.

PSFK presents the Future Of Health Report for UNICEF