Health workers, doctors, and nurses, all around the world, are fighting the war against the Coronavirus outbreak tirelessly, and it’s taking a toll on them. They could use all the help they can get to keep the fight against COVID-19 going on. Moxi—a hospital robot assistant, is designed to do just that.
Created by an Austin-based A.I. company called Diligent Robotics, Moxi assists clinical staffs with non-patient facing tasks such as gathering supplies and bringing them to patient rooms, delivering lab samples, fetching items from central supply and removing soiled linen bags. The company recently raised $10 million in a Series A round of investment.
Talking about the applicability of a nurse-assisting robot in this time of crisis, Dr. Andrea Thomaz, CEO and Co-founder of Diligent Robotics, told Analytics India Magazine, “Our product has always been focused on taking tedious tasks away from clinicians and other hospital staff. The current crisis makes that need even more clear. As our hospital customers are implementing new protocols quickly to respond to the crisis, we are working with them to apply automation in ways that can reduce risk to hospital staff.”
The round was led by DNX Ventures, with existing investors, True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures and Next Coast Ventures participating in the round. E14 Fund, Promus Ventures, and Grit Ventures also joined the round.
The company was founded in 2017 by social robotics experts Dr. Thomaz and Dr. Vivian Chu. Thomaz earned her Ph.D. from MIT and formerly held the position of Associate Professor at UT Austin where she directed the Socially Intelligent Machines Lab. Her co-founder Chu completed her Ph.D. in Robotics at Georgia Tech, with Thomaz as her co-advisor. According to Chu, Diligent Robotics “builds artificial intelligence that enables service robots to collaborate with people and adapt to dynamic human environments.”
With this company, Thomaz doesn’t aim to replace humans with robots, but her vision is to “help create a world where robots positively assist humans as teammates so humans have more time for the stuff in their lives that they want to do and are best at.”
This funding round pushes the total investment raised by Diligent Robotics to $15.8 million and will help the company to scale up and release more robots to the hospitals. “As the current pandemic and circumstance have shown, the real heroes are our healthcare providers. Diligent Robotics has built a hospital robot assistant, Moxi, to help solve one of the healthcare provider’s biggest challenges: nursing shortages,” said Q Motiwala, partner at DNX Ventures and newly assigned board member for Diligent Robotics.
Moxi is a socially intelligent robot that helps and supports clinical staffs with non-patient centric jobs. Standing almost as tall as a human, Moxi has been designed and programmed to work side-by-side with the staff and be completely autonomous. It has a mobile base to move around and is equipped with an arm and gripper hand that allows it to pick up objects of various sizes. A moving pillar allows it to alter its height as and when needed, thereby allowing it to be autonomous and complete a job from end-to-end, on its own.
“Created with a face to visually communicate social cues and able to show its intention before moving to the next task, Moxi is built to foster trust between patients and staff alike, setting the stage for future innovation and partnerships with developing technology,” said Thomas.
The company claims that the AI framework of Moxi includes social intelligence and human-guided learning, and mobile manipulation. Since Moxi operates in a human environment where things are always changing, the robot’s AI framework has the ability to learn from human teachers, as well as it’s the environment.
Since it’s launch in 2018, Moxi has undergone several thousand hours of training in various hospitals including Texas Health Dallas, The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) and Houston Methodist Hospital. It was also named one of the best inventions of 2019 by Time Magazine. According to the company, Moxi has been successfully deployed in several US hospitals and focuses on fetch-and-deliver tasks for frontline clinicians.
Diligent Robotics currently has a team of 18 members who have been closely working alongside hundreds of nurses, to understand their work, and help them redesign workflows to incorporate into Moxi’s system.