According to techCrunch, nurses spend 28 percent of the time on low-skilled tasks such as access to medical tools during work. And they should have focused more on the complex task of treating patients, especially during the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Diligent Robotics wants to give them an assistant robot that can run errands around the hospital. The start-up’s robot Moxi is equipped with a flexible robotic arm, gripper and full mobility, so it can access lightweight medical resources, navigate the hospital corridors and hand them over to nurses.
With the world facing a severe shortage of medical professionals, Moxi can help medical centers leverage their staff as effectively as possible. And because robots cannot be infected by COVID-19, it reduces the likelihood that potential carriers of the virus will interact with vulnerable people.
Diligent Robotics announced Friday that it has completed a $10 million Round A funding, which will help it expand to “provide more robots to more hospitals.” Andrea Thomaz, ceo of the company, said: “We have been working with hospital customers to design our product Moxi because we not only want to provide them with automated solutions to material management issues. We want to provide them with a robot that makes front-line employees happy to work with them and feel part of the team. “
The round of financing, led by DNX Ventures, brought diligent Robotics’ total financing to $15.75 million, helping it launch its fifth-generation Moxi robot. The company currently has two robots deployed in Dallas, Texas, but has partnered with two of the three top Hospital networks in the United States. “As the current pandemic and situation shows, the real hero is our healthcare provider,” DNX Ventures, DNX, True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, Next Coast Ventures, Grit Ventures The new funding from the E14 Fund and Promus ventures will help Diligent Robotics extend Moxi’s use cases and seamlessly complement the nurse’s workflow to reduce the talent shortage.
After studying for a PhD in social robotics at MIT’s Media Lab, Thomaz came up with the idea of a medical robot. Vivian Chu, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, earned a master’s degree in how to make robots tactile at the University of Pennsylvania and then worked with Thomaz of the Georgia Institute of Technology. They were inspired by a study that revealed how nurses spend a lot of time working as “hospital runners” so in 2016 they applied for and won a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The fund funded a six-month sprint to build the Moxi prototype.
Since then, 18-member Diligent Robotics has worked with hundreds of nurses to understand their needs from self-government assistants. “Today, you’re going to have a great day, and you may not interact with any robots… We want to change that,” Says Thomaz. “The only way to really get robots out of the warehouse and out of the factory floor is to build a robot that can work in our dynamic and chaotic everyday human environment. The idea is not to completely replace humans, but to focus on the most human elements of their work.
Moxi is about the size of a person, but is designed to look like an 80s movie robot. Its head and eyes can move to indicate intent, for example, the direction it is moving, while sound allows it to communicate with the nurse and confirm their commands. The moving strut adjusts the height, while its gripper and robotic arm can pick up and lower smaller hospital equipment. Its navigation system ensures that it can politely share crowded corridors and move through elevators.
Diligent Robotics’ solution engineers work with hospitals to teach Moxi how to travel and understand what they need. The company hopes to eventually build the ability to learn and adapt to robots so that nurses can teach robots new tasks in real time. “The team continues to demonstrate unparalleled robotic seist through the combination of social intelligence and human-led learning capabilities,” said Rohit Sharma, a partner at True Ventures and a member of Diligent Robotics board.
Hospitals pay up-front fees for the purchase of Moxi robots, and then charge monthly for software, services and maintenance. Thomaz acknowledges that “hospitals are good at risk aversion, so they may be wary of adopting new technologies”, so the start-up has adopted a slow and steady deployment approach that can convince buyers that Moxi is worth a try.
Diligent Robotics will compete with companies such as Aethon’s TUG Robotics. Other participants in hospital technology include Xenex’s machine, which uses light to disinfect rooms, and surgical robots such as Johnson and Johnson’s Auris and Intuitive Surgical.
Diligent Robotics wants to differentiate yourself by incorporating social intelligence into Moxi. “Time and again, we hear from our hospital partners that Moxi not only saves them time, but also brings a smile to their faces,” Says Thomaz. “The company wants to expand Moxi to other boring, dirty or dangerous service jobs. Eventually, Diligent Robotics wanted to bring Moxi into people’s homes.