Nov 18, 2015 (ACCESSWIRE via COMTEX) — NEW YORK, NY / ACCESSWIRE / November 18, 2015 / Once existing only in the imaginations of science fiction writers, robots – mechanical devices meant to imitate human movement and function, became a reality in 1962 when General Motors began using industrial robots on assembly lines, reducing waste while increasing speed and accuracy. In 1987, a gall bladder procedure was first performed by surgical robots, launching an era of minimally-invasive medicine with fewer incisions and shorter hospital stays. The medical world soon recognized the value of robotics: degrees of movement were unrestricted and surgical dexterity was enhanced. Visual acuity aided in quicker, more precise results.
Around the time General Motors revolutionized aspects of manufacturing, the US Military teamed with General Electric to experiment with an ‘exoskeleton’ – pieces of metal strapped on limbs meant to help soldiers lift up to 250 pounds with ease. The first working exoskeleton was developed at Los Alamos Laboratories in the late 1980s, prompted by a victim of accident by parachute, and quickly adopted for field maneuvers by the US Army. Hydraulics provided the power behind these early models, but weight of the device and power supply requirements was problematic. Software to control movement had not yet been developed.
Medicine’s interest in surgical robotics is gaining ground in an industry projected to reach $18 billion by 2018.
Just recently, Smith & Nephew plc, another worldwide leader in surgical products, grabbed Blue Belt Technologies for $275 million, marking its position is this upcoming market.
Intuitive Surgical ISRG, +1.78% blazing a trail in surgical robotics in 1999, finished last year with over $2 billion in sales and a stock that trades over $500.