Google and Johnson & Johnson have announced that the will team up to develop an advanced, robot-assisted surgery platform. The team effort will involve “capabilities, intellectual property and expertise” from both companies, and will involve Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, maker of medial devices.
All of the language in the announcement of the partnership suggests that the companies will be using robotics to supplement, not replace human surgeons, at least in this stage of the partnership. The passage below perhaps best illustrates the intent of the collaboration:
Robotic-assisted surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery that uses technology to give surgeons greater control, access and accuracy during the surgical procedure while benefitting patients by minimizing trauma and scarring, enabling accelerated post-surgical healing. The companies seek to develop new robotic tools and capabilities for surgeons and operating room professionals that integrate best-in-class medical device technology with leading-edge robotic systems, imaging and data analytics.
Robot-assisted surgery generally involves a human surgeon controlling instruments via a computer or a remote manipulator. It allows for more finite control and precision than is normally possible with a human operating with their kludgy meat hands, no matter their skill or dexterous ability. The result can be far less invasive procedures, meaning faster recovery time.
The platform described for this specific collaboration would also likely be used to collect and analyze data related to procedures, with the aim of improving treatment and specific surgery practices over time. Google Glass has been used in some robot-assisted surgery setups, as well, and the tech giant’s involvement and resources could hopefully help defray some of the costs associated with robot-assisted procedures over time.