US-based social robot specialist Diligent Robotics has raised US$10 million in additional funding to expand its fleet of nurse assistant robots for hospitals.
Moxi is designed to reduce nurse workloads by handling tasks like collecting supplies, gathering soiled linens, and delivering fresh ones so nursing staff can spend more time caring for patients.
The announcement comes as the COVID-19 crisis takes a huge toll on hospital resources globally.
As well as tackling mundane hospital tasks, Moxi can also help reduce health care professionals’ exposure to disease.
Robots such as UVD’s ultraviolet light-emitting disinfection robot are now playing a key role in the battle to contain coronavirus and protect health workers. Telepresence robots and drones are also being deployed to fight COVID-19.
Moxi was created by Diligent Robotics at University of Texas, Austin by CEO Dr Andrea Thomaz, a roboticist and professor who previously ran the Georgia Tech Socially Intelligent Machines Lab.
“We envision a future powered by robots that work seamlessly with human teams,” said Dr Thomaz, now co-founder and CEO of Diligent Robotics.
“We are enabling our hospital customers redesign workflows for their frontline teams, letting nurses make full use of their specialised skills, letting robots handle tedious fetching tasks and other routine work.”
Performing collaborative tasks
Co-founder and chief technology officer of Diligent Robotics Dr Vivian Chu added: “We build artificial intelligence that enables service robots to collaborate with people and adapt to dynamic human environments.
“Diligent Robotics is delivering a new class of hospital service robots by building a solution that can autonomously navigate a hospital to perform collaborative tasks with nursing staff.”
In a recent phone interview with VentureBeat, Dr Thomaz said: “Now more than ever there’s kind of a spotlight on how overworked (nurses are) and what a shortage there is of frontline hospital staff, so we’re anxious to get more robots out there to help.
Researchers spent more than 3,000 hours testing Moxi in Texas hospitals in 2018 and 2019.
Earlier this year, the robot reported for duty in Dallas with its first customer, Medical City Healthcare.
Chronic shortage of nursing staff
Now more than ever, it is critical for hospitals to find ways to relieve any burdens they can from overworked clinical staff, Diligent Robotics said in a statement.
According to the company, more than 30% of US hospitals report they can’t find enough candidates to fill open clinical positions. Also, clinician turnover is at the highest levels at almost 20%.
Nursing “burnout” costs US$9 billion (about $12 billion) for hospitals annually and US$14 billion (about $19 billion) for the healthcare system overall.
Founded in 2017, Diligent Robotics has quickly become a leader in the social robotics sector. It is the first company to build a robot with social intelligence and mobile manipulation capabilities that can assist healthcare staff in a work environment.
Last year, Diligent Robotics launched Moxi into the hospital market, and was named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions 2019.
CTO and Co-Founder, Vivian Chu, received MIT Technology Review’s highly prestigious 35 Under 35 for 2019 award, and CEO Andrea Thomaz was named one of Inc Magazine’s 100 Female Founders Building America’s Most Innovative & Ambitious Businesses.
The latest funding round was led by DNX Ventures, with participation from True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, Next Coast Ventures, Grit Ventures, E14 Fund, and Promus Ventures.
The investment from this round will help Diligent Robotics scale their solution to a wider customer base as well as their continued investment in product strategy and development in both hardware and software.
Diligent Robotics previously raised US$5 million in a seed round. Based in Austin, Texas, the company has 18 employees.