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Tag : VGO

by   -   September 27, 2013

Robotic start-up companies range from the whimsical to the amazing, from futuristic to topical, and from hubs of robotic activity in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City (a new hub) and Switzerland to far-off places around the world: Turkey, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Christchurch, Reykjavik, Singapore, Shenzhen, Buenos Aires — essentially, everywhere that programmers program and engineers tinker.

by   -   February 4, 2013

Verizon and GE have produced television advertisements that include robots. The ads are playing frequently and nationally. They are good, they’re being talked about and tweeted, audiences like them, and they are great promotional pieces for the robotics industry. The ads are indicative of PR and advertising agencies’ growing awareness that people are becoming at ease with robots in their everyday life, hence the inclusion in their advertisements.

Click image to see video.
by   -   January 14, 2013
CBS News Reporter Steve Kroft interviews Rodney Brooks at ReThink Robotics.
Click on the image to see the segment.

On Sunday, January 13, CBS News 60 Minutes reported on robots. Their focal point was jobs and the changing nature of work. As a backdrop to their comments they showed Tessla Motors’ robots retooling themselves, Adept’s robots stuffing boxes with packaged lettuce and also assembling Braun shavers, watched ReThink Robots slowly pick and place an item, saw Aethon’s tugs in action in hospital corridors and had a brief glimpse of InTouch Health’s RP-VITA remote presence medical robot and a more descriptive view of the VGo Communications VGo robot at school and for home care. In the process the reporter, Steve Kroft, discussed a new definition of robots and robotics in sharp disagreement from the definitions posed by the International Federation of Robots:

Steve Kroft said, “The broad universal definition is a machine that can perform the job of a human. The machine can be mobile or stationary, hardware or software.”

by   -   December 10, 2012
VGo Communications wins infringement lawsuit brought on by InTouch Health and also initiates a patent reexamination of four other InTouch patents.
by   -   December 6, 2012

 

VGo Communications wins infringement lawsuit brought on by InTouch Health and also initiates a patent reexamination of four other InTouch patents.

InTouch Health, a company that has been providing remote presence services to the medical community for the past decade contacted VGo and suggested that they agree to a licensing agreement of InTouch patents. A suit followed and, in a Los Angeles Federal District courtroom yesterday, a jury found that VGo Communications did not infringe.

by   -   August 1, 2012
 By Frank Tobe, editor/publisher, The Robot Report

Last week I attended the 7th Annual Remote Presence Clinical Innovations Forum hosted by InTouch Health in Santa Barbara, CA, a two-day users conference disseminating the latest information regarding a wide range of telemedicine-related topics through presentations and workshops. The keynote address, by Yulun Wang, Chairman and CEO of InTouch Health and Colin Angle, Chairman, co-founder and CEO of iRobot, Remote Presence’s Future: From Enabling Access to Coordinating Care, provided the platform to announce and display InTouch Health’s new RP-VITA telepresence robot which autonomously brought itself onstage skillfully avoiding a few obstacles.

InTouch Health has installed their remote presence robots and portable devices in hospitals all over the world, and their devices are used more frequently year by year. In his keynote speech, Wang said they were in “500 hospitals and have 60,000 high acuity consults a year now, and growing at a nice clip.” This is up from 300 hospitals and 20,000 consults two years ago.

After the address I spent a few moments with Colin and asked him about iRobot’s role with InTouch and about their goals for their new mobility platform.

I saw and played with the new RP-VITA robots and they are truly slick. But the most enlightening thing I saw was four hours of tightly-packed presentations by critical care doctors and hospital administrators, all users of InTouch Health’s remote presence robots, and all portraying different aspects of why remote presence in health care is relevant, is saving lives and is necessary today and why it will continue to be in the future.

  • A Trauma Telemedicine outfit from Halifax, Canada is providing pre-natal care in a Third World South American nation. They are using InTouch Health’s portable remote presence devices with a traveling nurse to assist in taking and discussing ultra sound exams and other pre-natal treatments with health care professionals in Canada for rural pregnant women.
  • Two hospital systems (one in Florida and the other in Pennsylvania) are letting their patients see their doctors by telepresence at nearby local facilities using InTouch’s robots and other telepresence technology thereby making in unnecessary to drive to a big city university hospital.
  • Virtual tutoring was presented – in which an amazing feat of software was shown – superimposing the consulting surgeon’s hands over the view of the actual surgery so that it could be seen and discussed by both the consulting and on-site physicians.
  • Robots were used to provide admitting and initial diagnosis — one system actually has a 7 pm to 7 am robot shift. Nurses commented that by using the robots they could quickly get nighttime help and, because of the cameras and two-way dialogue capabilities, there has been no disagreement about what is seen by each of the various people involved.
  • A survey at one hospital utilizing InTouch robots showed a reduction of length-of-stay by 1+ days, the average patient census was down by 1, and there was an increase in cases by 9.
  • In a couple of presentations, a mobile robot was hooked up to the ballroom speaker system when the speaker had to be in two places at the same time. One doctor was a team physician for an Olympic soccer team in London; another missed a plane and was using his laptop at the airport to operate the robot on the stage.
  • There was one testimonial after another — and that was before the announcement of the new RP-VITA robot!

iRobot’s Mobility Platform

iRobot’s mobility platform is as slick, shiny and elegantly crafted as is the re-designed InTouch Health application station and “head” that is mounted atop it. Neatly encased in iRobot’s pedestal are three PrimeSense 3D sensors (two below and one above), four omni-directional Swedish wheels, an acoustic sensor, a laser sensor and iRobot’s Aware2 operating system. For the joint venture with InTouch, iRobot has provided an enhanced navigation system so that the device can quickly and autonomously move from point to point, rerouting as necessary for collision avoidance. This frees the health care professional from remotely driving the robot. [The autonomy feature is pending FDA approval which is expected in Q4.]
Also, the new RP-VITA specs contain a simple-to-use iPad interface for navigation and interaction with the patient and health care team. Thus, with the Aware2 operating system and software developer kit (SDK), and an iPad SDK both available to developers, thousands of developers can provide applications for a single, solid, proven platform.
Product engineering and appearance are always important considerations. Continued Colin, “When we test drove the RP-VITA without the skin, people thought it moved too fast and was unstable. But when we encased it and made it look as it does now, there were none of those complaints.”

Colin Angle stated that iRobot’s ultimate goal is to have a multi-purpose mobile robot in every home for every type of care and service. Thus, with this smooth-running new RP-VITA platform and the Aware2 SDK, iRobot is ready to take its know-how anywhere and everywhere. About the joint venture, Angle commented that “It was definitely the beginning of something important.”

InTouch Health’s RP-VITA Mobile Robot

Over the past 10 years, InTouch Health has been modifying it’s remote presence products to adapt to what health care professionals have needed. They gradually came to the conclusion that one methodology doesn’t fit all needs. Enabling a doctor to be in two places at once involves a whole series of products and systems. Currently they have three very capable solutions to those remote presence needs: a portable Xpress device for ambulances and remote locations unfriendly to mobile robots; a portable operating room station (Vantage and Lite); and the new mobile VITA robot. The swiveling wide-angle and zoom cameras and monitor and the two-way communication are integral parts of all of their products. The general purpose of each product is to easily perform real-time consults with patients and other physicians and health care providers through the use of secure interfaces supported by a speedy and secure network infrastructure.

As a pioneer in the field of health care telepresence, InTouch Health has had the unenviable task of keeping up with technological change while offering state-of-the-art remote presence robotic products. The release of this new RP-VITA robot and the partnership with iRobot, indicate how this new venture is paying off: the integration of new iPad apps integrated with the iRobot platform and an API making further clinical apps easily available, InTouch seems to have a viable forward plan.

However, competition is just around the corner. VGo Communication, Giraff Technologies and other telepresence robot companies are working with hospitals and municipalities to find uses their products can provide:

  • Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire has leased four VGo robots for a pilot program. They will be on site to supplement nurses in homes of patients in the group’s hospice to allow medical specialists in other locations to have live consultations about the case.
  • Another pilot program using VGos is under way with Children’s Hospital Boston where the hospital sends VGos home with kids after their operations so that doctors can check on their young patients once they’re home and talk with parents or caregivers about their care.
  • Giraffs are being placed by visiting nurses where frequent contact is desired. Giraffs can also be used by family members for communication and video conferencing.

Certainly, the joint venture with iRobot has freed InTouch to focus more on what it does best and leave the driving to iRobot.

by   -   March 3, 2012
Travis Deyle, is a postdoc researcher at Duke and a recent PhD from GA Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he was a member of the Healthcare Robotics Lab and a frequent blogger at Hizook.com. Fortunate for us, he kept a file of 2011 venture funded robotic projects and turned it into an interesting chart:
Source: Travis Deyle, Hizook.com
by   -   March 3, 2012
By Frank Tobe, editor/publisher, The Robot Report

Travis Deyle, is a postdoc researcher at Duke and a recent PhD from GA Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he was a member of the Healthcare Robotics Lab and a frequent blogger at Hizook.com. Fortunate for us, he kept a file of 2011 venture funded robotic projects and turned it into an interesting chart:

Source: Travis Deyle, Hizook.com

This chart may not reflect all of the equity investment activity in the robotics market but it is a far cry from the $6.9 billion that went into 997 venture funded deals in web and Internet startup companies over the course of 2011. This chart also doesn’t mention the many acquisitions, strategic partnerships and mergers that occurred. The most recent is the acquisition of French Cybernetix by Technip, an oil resources and ROV service provider to the industry.

Deyle describes why he thinks VC funding for robotics is a tough nut to crack:

Robotics companies have large capital requirements for robot hardware, few potential acquirers, and almost no “Google-scale” breakout success stories (i.e., IPOs). One of the best known robotics companies, iRobot, has a market cap of just $700 million. This makes robotics a difficult sell to your typical VC firm.

Although these 14 companies represent just a sliver of the 100+ robotic startups that are getting funded in one way or another, they do offer insight into those that are of interest to the venture capital community. Of the companies listed in the chart, it is interesting to note that two are foreign and the biggest investment is for a robotic hair implant device for balding men.

VGo telepresence robot, Harvest Automation’s nursery robot, Liquid Robotics’ wave glider.
  1. Restoration Robotics and their new ARTAS System provide image-guided technology for hair follicle harvesting. It’s a massive market, hence the large investment. They received US FDA clearance mid-2011 and treated their first patient in August, 2011.
  2. Redzone Robotics was featured by Pres. Obama last year and, in addition to the 2011 funding, received an additional $8.5 million just a few days ago. Their wastewater systems – pipe inspection and cleaning robots – provide critical environmental assistance to municipalities, contractors and engineering firms. Again, a big investment for a big marketplace.
  3. Liquid Robotics and their wave gliders have been much in the news. They presently have four wave gliders traveling different paths across the Pacific and making their data available to scientists and lay people worldwide. Their gliders are valuable additions to the arsenals of scientific and environmental agencies, fisheries, aquaculture, pollution detection and resource discovery companies as well as defense/security and law enforcement agencies. Hence the large investment.
  4. Aldebaran Robotics, a French company, makes the Nao and newer Romeo robots which they sell to schools and for robotic soccer and other competitions to promote STEM education, a limited but growing marketplace, hence the midrange venture investment.
  5. Medrobotics is a Carnegie Mellon spin-off focused on surgical applications using flexible snake-like robotic devices for minimally-invasive procedures. Like other medical start-ups, there is a long lead time for product refinement and FDA clearances. Medrobotics has received funding in almost every year since it’s inception in 2005.
  6. Tibion Corporation, is a Sunnyvale, CA start-up, providing bionic legs for stroke rehabilitation. This form of robotic-assisted rehab therapy, therapy with the use of an exoskeleton, is a big step forward from the $300,000+ fixed-position machines previously used.
  7. MakerBot Industries, the 3-D printer maker for the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) crowd, and featured at Maker Faires held all over the country to mammoth and enthusiastic crowds, services the DIY, prototyping, small run, and hobby communities while more expensive 3-D printers support the additive manufacturing sector. The Maker Faire Bay Area DIY innovation festival will be held in May in San Mateo, CA.
  8. Harvest Automation has a lot of good things going for it: (1) many of it’s investors are the very same ag businesses that will be buyers of the robots, (2) although focused on nursery automation to begin their business, they are poised to broaden their scope into many other facets of the ag industry, and (3) the key players are experienced in the business of robotics.
  9. Orbotix is the developer of the sphero smartphone-controlled robotic ball. The ball has no buttons, no battery box, no socket or cord for a charger (although it does have a cup-like charging dock). Shake it and it glows; put it on the floor and direct it anywhere with your iPhone. It’s a Bluetooth-based, wirelessly-charged device first shown at the 2011 CES in Las Vegas. 
  10. ThinkLabs is an Indian education company focused on science and technology. It uses simple robots, sensor enhanced devices, and robot competitions to provide hands-on inspiration for students taking their courses.
  11. Precise Path Robotics began as an entity to participate in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and has migrated it’s navigation system into robotic lawn mowing and other robotic devices to provide maintenance and conditioning robots for the golf course market.
  12. VGo Communications has thus far produced 2,000 telepresence robots and plans to lower the cost to near $2,000 in their next production run. You may have seen the ABC News stories about the high school student who couldn’t leave home but nevertheless, through the use of the VGo, attended the local high school, piloting his VGo from class to class and up and down the school elevator.
  13. Aethon is a Pittsburgh, PA based mobile robot company that makes robotic carts and tugs for the hospital industry tugs to pickup and deliver food, medicine, waste materials and general supplies. The company began in 2001 and has had many rounds of financing. This round of $1.74 million was less than the $2.5 million targeted.
  14. CyPhy Works, a maker of small unmanned flying robots used to inspect bridges and other public infrastructure, has also received federal grants and research awards to develop its technology for both commercial, governmental and defense clients.