UPDATED BY
Brennan Whitfield | Jun 06, 2022

A few decades ago, people predicted that robots would be tightly integrated into everyone’s daily life by the turn of the millennium. But even though we don’t work with robot assistants in the office and employ robot nannies in our homes — yet — robots have made inroads in certain industries, such as healthcare. 

Robots are a good fit for the healthcare industry because healthcare workers have always been working with cutting-edge technology. These days, robots used in the industry can be split into two general categories, medical robots and surgical robots. While surgical robots are used during operations and procedures by surgeons, medical robots are used across a wider range of applications, from administrative tasks in clinical settings to outpatient care.

10 Medical and Surgical Robotics Companies to Know

  1. Diligent Robotics
  2. ReWalk Robotics
  3. Myomo
  4. Barrett Technology
  5. Energid Technologies
  6. Intuitive Surgical
  7. Ansensus Surgical
  8. Embodied
  9. Harvard Biodesign Lab
  10. SoftBank Robotics

 

Medical Robots

Robots abound in the healthcare realm. So-called “telepresence” robots allow doctors to check in with patients from remote locations if the physician can’t be on site. Rehabilitation robots, meanwhile, aid patients in performing certain movements employed in post-surgical recovery or for other reasons. 

Robots also assist in transporting medical supplies, prescription drug dispensing, and sanitation and clinical management so human healthcare workers who normally do those tasks can focus more on their patients. In the older adult care sector, companion robots can also help reduce anxiety and depression caused by loneliness

How robots are transforming surgeries. | Video: UC Davis Health

 

Surgical Robots

But the best known robotics applications in healthcare and medicine are surgical. Everything from organ transplants and gastrointestinal procedures to spine surgery and urological operations are performed using robots of one type or another. 

Surgical robots are generally operated by highly trained surgeons who specialize in robot-assisted surgeries. They allow surgeons to make more precise incisions and have helped pioneer new minimally invasive ways to perform a wide range of surgical procedures, giving patients a much faster recovery time.

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11 Medical and Surgical Robotics Companies

Many tech companies in the healthcare industry are currently innovating robotic solutions to meet the needs of healthcare workers and patients. Here are 11 examples of medical and surgical robotic applications in healthcare — and the companies behind them.

 

Location: Austin, Texas

Diligent’s AI-enabled robots are designed to work with people in everyday environments. The company’s autonomous Moxi robot can be left alone to perform time-consuming logistical tasks in hospitals like setting up patient rooms and restocking supplies. Capable of navigating hospital hallways and other tight spaces, Moxi is even imbued with social intelligence that’s conveyed through its head movements and LED eyes.

In the fall of 2018, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas became the first U.S. hospital to use Diligent’s Moxi robot so its clinical staff could focus more on patient care. Healthcare systems have begun to already use Moxi full time in clinical settings, with some examples being Medical City Dallas’ Heart and Spine hospitals in 2020 and Christiana Hospital in 2022. The robot is used to perform tasks like stocking supplies, delivering blood samples and updating patients’ medical records.

 

Location: Marlborough, Massachusetts

ReWalk makes exoskeletons for personal and commercial rehab use. The light, battery-powered system, the ReWalk Personal 6.0, is a wearable exoskeleton with motors located at the hip and knee joints. Body shifting spurs motion that the company claims closely resembles that of human legs. 

A Portland, Oregon police officer, who was paralyzed in 2012 while on duty, wore one of ReWalk’s exoskeletons to stand while raising his hand and swearing an oath as he accepted a promotion to sergeant in 2019. As of 2021, the FDA granted the company’s ReBoot exo-suit breakthrough device designation, which can speed up the device’s review process.

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Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Myomo’s powered brace MyoPro is designed to assist people who experience paralysis or weakening in their hands and arms due to a variety of conditions. The device reads nerve signals from the skin’s surface, then activates small motors that facilitate natural arm and hand movements.

The company introduced a MyoPro model for adolescents in 2018, and in 2020, the company was authorized to be a Medicare provider

As of 2022, Myomo is in works to extend its services to China through a joint venture with companies Ryzur Medical and Chinaleaf. David Henry, Myomo’s chief financial officer, said in a report that plans are underway for the production and distribution of MyoPro technology in China for people with upper-limb paralysis.

 

Location: Newton, Massachusetts

Barrett makes articulated arms and hands — what it calls “advanced robotic manipulators” — for a variety of applications. The WAM Arm mimics human dexterity. The company’s BH8-series BarrettHand can grasp an array of different objects. And Burt is designed for upper-extremity rehabilitation training and robotics research.

Barrett technology has been in use with U.S. rehabilitation services at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago since 2004 and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital since 2016. It even made its debut overseas with the deployment of Burt and Estun Automation at Chinese hospitals in 2021

 

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Energid’s Actin SDK software enables advanced real-time motion control for industrial and consumer robotics applications in industries where getting to market quickly is paramount.

ModuleWorks, which creates computer-aided manufacturing software and components, partnered with Energid in 2019 to create 3D simulation and calculation software using Energid’s Actin robotic controls toolkit.

 

Location: Sunnyvale, California

Intuitive’s robots are used for minimally invasive surgery. Equipped with advanced vision technologies, energy systems, stapling and instruments, the continually upgraded da Vinci platform has been used for millions of surgeries since the late 1990s. The newer Ion is used for minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies.

Intuitive reported a 28 percent uptick in surgical procedures employing its da Vinci Surgical Systems from 2020 to 2021. And as of December 2021, da Vinci Surgical Systems have been used in over 10 million surgeries worldwide.

 

Location: Morrisville, North Carolina

Asensus Surgical’s Senhance Surgical System for laparoscopic procedures features fully reusable instruments and can integrate with existing technology. The company says time and cost investments are about the same as those for manual laparoscopies.

Asensus Surgical demoed its Senhance Surgical System, the First Digital Laparoscopic Surgical Platform at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in 2018. In November 2021, the Shinmatsudo Central General Hospital in Japan began to lease the company’s Senhance Surgical System, which helps perform laparoscopic surgeries.

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Location: Pasadena, California

Staffed by a team of engineers, therapists and gamers, Embodied makes technologically advanced companion robots that exhibit human-like care and compassion to enhance individual wellness and quality of life.

Embodied landed $22 million in Series A funding in 2018 for its AI and robotics platforms that serve the care and wellness sector.

In 2020, Time magazine spotlighted the company’s Moxie robot, which aids children’s social and emotional development, as one of the best inventions of the year. Moxie’s founder and CEO said that the company hopes to expand the robot’s services to aid in loneliness and neurological conditions experienced by older adults as well.

 

Location: Marlborough, Massachusetts

Harvard Biodesign Lab develops what it calls “soft wearable robots” that are more comfortable and less obtrusive. They can improve walking efficiency in healthy people and assist those who suffer from muscle weakness or other physical and neurological disorders. 

Since its release in 2017, the lab’s soft exosuit model is continually being updated for a variety of needs. The exosuit can aid extremity movement and provide sensing technology for people with Parkinson’s, people in need of lower-mobility assistance and even soldiers and firefighters seeking a mobility boost.

 

Location: Tokyo, Japan

SoftBank’s robots range from empathetic and expressive humanoids such as Pepper and NAO, to focused and task-oriented machines such as Servi and Whiz. Entertaining, educational and engaging, SoftBank robots can accompany patients during mental and physical exercises or complete simple service tasks so human staff can focus on other duties.  

One of SoftBank’s products, NAO, was part of a 2021 study on the benefits of interactive robots in early childhood education. Such technology has helped in early research regarding the effects of using robots to supplement children’s learning. 

In 2022, SoftBank announced a strategic equity investment with Avalon Steritech. The companies aim to use their combined robotics technologies to provide automated disinfection services for public areas and transportation.

 

Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Vicarious Surgical’s Robotic System is designed to aid surgeons with maneuverability and visibility during invasive abdominal procedures. The technology is attached with a 360 degree-view camera and two flexible robotic arms, able to be inserted with a 1.5 centimeter incision and be controlled remotely by the surgeon at hand.

Vicarious Surgical received Breakthrough Device Designation by the FDA in 2019, and has undergone a pre-submission process with the FDA for 510(k) approval on its Robotic System as of 2021

 

Tammy Xu contributed reporting to this story.

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