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8.21.19
Inside Job

Bill Gates Funds Tiny Robot Surgeons That Operate Inside the Body

February 15th 19__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Virtuality
Pixabay/Tag Hartman-Simkins

Dr. Robot

Vicarious Surgical’s plan for healthcare sounds like a twist on “The Magic School Bus.”

Take a tiny humanoid robot with two arms and a camera where its head should be and place it inside a person’s body through a small incision. Then have a surgeon anywhere in the world don a virtual reality system, connected to the robot. The setup lets the surgeon “see” what the robot sees — and controls its arms by moving their own.

The goal, co-founder Adam Sachs told TechCrunch, is to make the surgeon feel “as if they’d been shrunk down” — and the company now has an additional $10 million in funding to help it reach that goal.

Tiny Surgeon

On Thursday, Vicarious Surgical announced that it had closed a $10 million round of funding led by Bill Gates’ Gates Frontier. The company will use this money to continue to develop its technology combining surgical robots and VR.

“We’ve been working on ways to miniaturize robotics and put all of the motion of surgery into the abdominal cavity,” Sachs told TechCrunch. “If you put all of the motion inside the abdominal cavity you are not confined to motion around the incision sites.”

Democratizing Healthcare

Once the surgical robotics company meets its goal of effectively “shrinking” doctors and placing them virtually within patients’ bodies, the next step will be seeing how it can use the tech to improve healthcare in remote areas.

“A lot of our long-term vision is about growing and scaling our technology to the point where it’s accessible not just to big cities and major hospitals in the U.S. and also the small cities and towns in the rural U.S. and around the world as well,” Sachs told TechCrunch. “Long-term it’s about the democratization of surgery that can come from surgical robotics.”

READ MORE: Bill Gates-Backed Vicarious Surgical Adds a Virtual Reality Twist to Robots in the Operating Room [TechCrunch]

More on surgical robotics: Experts Want to Give Robot Surgeons a Sense of Touch