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16 Feb, 2019 18:03

Bill Gates backs tiny robotic surgeons that operate from inside a patient’s body

Bill Gates backs tiny robotic surgeons that operate from inside a patient’s body

Bill Gates has thrown $10 million behind the development of tiny camera-wielding surgical robots that can be placed inside a person’s body through a small incision and controlled by a surgeon anywhere in the world via VR.

The innovative technology uses miniscule robots combined with virtual reality to carry out a groundbreaking new concept for minimally invasive surgery.

The human-like bots consist of two arms and a head. The arms are controlled by a surgeon as they move their own arms, while the head acts as the surgeon’s eyes so they can see inside the patient’s body and virtually perform the procedure from within. The operation can theoretically be carried out from hundreds of miles away – providing there’s a strong internet connection, of course.

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The idea is for surgeons to feel like they have been shrunken down to pocket size and transported into a patient’s body. The technology has the ability to cut the cost of major surgeries and also given people access to the best surgeons regardless of location.

We’ve been working on ways to miniaturize robotics and put all of the motion of surgery into the abdominal cavity,” said Vicarious Surgical co-founder Adam Sachs, 27, to TechCrunch. “If you put all of the motion inside the abdominal cavity you are not confined to motion around the incision sites.”

Vicarious Surgical, the Massachusetts-based company developing the technology, announced the funding led by the billionaire’s ‘Gates Frontier’ on Thursday. They said the investment gets them one step closer to their long-term goal of bringing the groundbreaking technology to patients in remote parts of the world.

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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 US [but] also the small cities and towns in the rural US and around the world as well,” said Sachs.

Most hospitals can’t afford the $2-million robots needed to perform today’s robotic surgeries, says Sachs, but by making the devices much smaller, the technology will be more widely available. “Long-term, it’s about the democratization of surgery that can come from surgical robotics,” he said.

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