28% of a nurse’s time is wasted on low-skilled tasks such as accessing medical tools. We need them to focus on the complex and compassionate work of treating patients, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. Hardworking robotics wants to give them a helper droid who can run errands for them in the hospital. The start-up’s Bot Moxi is equipped with a flexible arm, a gripper hand and full mobility so that it can find light medical resources, navigate through the hallways of a clinic and hand them over to the nurse.
Given the critical shortage of healthcare professionals in the world, Moxi could help health centers deploy their staff as efficiently as possible. And since robots cannot be infected with COVID-19, they are less a potential carrier to interact with vulnerable populations.
Today, Diligent Robotics is announcing its $ 10 million Series A that will help the company scale to deliver “more robots to more hospitals,” CEO Andrea Thomaz tells me. “We developed our Moxi product side by side with hospital customers because we don’t just want to offer them an automation solution for their material management problems. We want to give them a robot that the people at the front like to work with and that feels part of the team. “
The round led by DNX Ventures brings Diligent Robotics total funding of $ 15.75 million, which has brought it to the fifth generation of its Moxi robot. Two are currently in use in Dallas, TX, but are already working with two of the top three hospital networks in the United States. ““As the current pandemic and circumstances have shown, the real heroes are our healthcare providers,” said Q Motiwala, partner at DNX Ventures. The new money from DNX, True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, Next Coast Ventures, Grit Ventures, E14 Fund and Promus Ventures will help Diligent Robotics expand Moxi’s use cases and seamlessly complement nurses’ workflows to alleviate the talent crisis .
After her doctorate, Thomaz had the idea for a hospital droid. in social robotics at the MIT Media Lab. Her co-founder and CTO Vivien Chu had mastered UPenn’s skills in giving robots a sense of touch, and then came to work with Thomaz at Georgia Tech. They were inspired by a study that revealed how much time nurses spent as hospital goers. In 2016, they applied for and won a National Science Foundation grant of $ 750,000 to fund a six-month sprint to build a Moxi prototype.
Since then, the 18-person Diligent Robotics has worked with hundreds of nurses to learn exactly what they need from an autonomous assistant. “today They will start your day and are unlikely to interact with robots. We want to change that, ”says Thomaz. “The only way to really get robots out of the warehouse outside of the factory is to build a robot that works in our dynamic and chaotic everyday human environment.” The startup does not intend to completely replace people, which it does not think is possible, but to let them focus on the most human elements of their work.
Moxi is about the size of a human being, but designed to look like a movie robot from the 80s so as not to create uncanny cyborg craziness in the valley. Head and eyes can move to signal intentions, such as which direction they want to move, while sounds allow communicating with nurses and confirming their commands. The height can be adjusted with a movable column, while the hand and arm of the gripper can pick up and put down smaller hospital equipment. Its round shape and polite navigation ensure that it can politely share crowded corridors and take the elevator.
Diligent Robotics’ solution engineers work with hospitals to teach Moxi how to get around and what they need. The company hopes to develop the ability to learn and adapt to the bot at some point so that nurses can quickly teach it new tasks. “The team continues to show unsurpassed robot-specific innovations by combining social intelligence and human-led learning skills,” said Rohit Sharma, True Ventures partner and Diligent board member.
Hospitals pay an upfront fee to buy Moxi robots. A monthly fee is charged for software, services and maintenance. Thomaz admits that “Hospitals are inherently risk averse and can be careful about introducing new technologies. “The startup is therefore taking a slow and steady approach to deployment to convince buyers that Moxi is worth the learning curve.
Diligent Robotics will compete with companies like Aethon’s TUG-Bot for pulling laundry and pharmacy trolleys. Other players in the hospital’s technical space are the Xenex machine that disinfects rooms with light and surgical bots like those from Johnson & Johnson’s Auris and Intuitive Surgical.
Diligent Robotics hopes to differentiate itself through building social intelligence in Moxi so that it feels more like an intern than a device. “We keep hearing from our hospital partners that Moxi not only brings time back to her day, but also puts a smile on her face, ”says Thomaz. The company wants to develop Moxi for other boring, dirty or dangerous service tasks.
Ultimately, Diligent Robotics hopes to bring Moxi into people’s homes. “W.Although we don’t see robots replacing camaraderie and human connection, we dream of a time when robots could do more nursing homes pleasant by balancing the often astonishing number of caretakers to bed conditions (as bad as 30: 1), ”concludes Thomaz. In this way, Moxihelp people age with dignity and maintain their independence for as long as possible. “