Your Surgeon is a Snake


Your Surgeon is a Snake_image_KS

A recent Wall Street Journal front page article featured a story about Georgia Tech’s Robot Chicken Deboner (click to: see video).  While that sounded tasty, I am compelled to tell you the story about “Snakes on Plane”, well almost, at least the robotic kind slithering through your veins.

The scientists of Carnegie Mellon have dreamed up a new type of robotic (micro) snake that can seek and destroy viruses and ailments in your body. The research started almost 10 years ago.  Today most major hospitals have a department of robotics, so the concept of a broader mechanical tool is not foreign to the operating theater. The unique concept is the ability of tiny robotics to crawl through veins to identify diseases or even perform operations by using an array of microscopic cameras, scissors and forceps. Current models deployed act as a surgeon’s aid, but it is foreseeable that the day will come when robotic snakes roam through one’s body on their own.  According to Michael Argenziano, the chief of adult cardiac surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center in New York, “it won’t be very long before we have robots that are nanobots, meaning they will actually be inside the body without tethers,”

Argenziano was one of the first involved in the FDA’s robotic heart surgery more than 10 years ago, and claims that snake robots are commonly used tools in his hospital, they are like “little hands inside the patients, as if the surgeon had been shrunken, and was working on the heart valve.”

The brain child of the ‘Snake-Bot’ is Howie Choset who built the slithering devices to make surgeries faster and cheaper.  Choset has had many iterations, but today’s bot is about the size of a dime with amazing flexibility to navigate the sinews of the body with the least amount of damage, thus reducing recovery time.  Besides being deployed in cardiac units, the snake-bot is used in other critical diseases, such as removing tumors and identifying cancer growths.

While robots are far from the magic cure, we are living in an exciting and hopeful era of medicine.  I can still hear Bones from Star Trek calling 20th Century doctors “barbarians”, now we might be able to finally go where no robot has gone before. Beam me up!

Reprinted with permission.

Image credit: CC by Nezih Durmazlar

About the author: Oliver Mitchell

Oliver Mitchell is the Founding Partner of Autonomy Ventures a New York based venture capital firm focused on seed stage investments in robotics, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence. He has spent the last twenty years building and selling ventures, including: Holmes Protection to ADT/Tyco, Americash to American Express, and launching RobotGalaxy, a national EdTech brand. Oliver has been investing in the robotic industry for close to 10 years, with four successful exits in his angel portfolio in the past two years (including 2 IPOs). He is also a member of New York Angels and co-chairs the Frontier Tech Committee.

As father of five, Oliver launched RobotGalaxy in 2006 to fill a personal need: he wanted a wholesome activity for his son. RobotGalaxy’s patented toys were a national phenomena available at Toys’R’Us, Nordstrom Department Stores, and online that connected to a virtual world and library of mobile apps.

Before RobotGalaxy, Oliver was involved in a number of successful technology ventures and real estate developments. Oliver was part of the executive team of Softcom/IVT, an interactive video startup backed by Allen & Co., Intel Capital (NASDAQ:INTC) and Sun Microsystems. At IVT, Oliver was instrumental in expanding the market for their products with such leading broadcasters as HBO, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network.

Prior to IVT, Oliver was a founding member of AmeriCash, Inc., a network of ATMs in high traffic retail locations. AmeriCash was acquired by American Express (NYSE:AXP) within 32 months of operations. Oliver was also instrumental in the development of Holmes Protection and its sale to ADT/Tyco International (NYSE:TYC). Oliver has extensive background in merchant banking and advertising. He started his career at Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners.

Oliver holds 14 patents and has appeared on numerous television shows, including: The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, The Today Show, and Rachel Ray. He also serves as a mentor on the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator Fund, and advises many technology companies on their growth strategies including Greensight Agronomics and Que Innovations.

Oliver is also the publisher of the well-known robotics blog Robot Rabbi and is in the midst of writing a book entitled, “An Innovator’s Field Guide: Taking Ideas From Zero to Hero.”

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