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The surgical robot market, long dominated by one company, has a new entrant hoping to disrupt the industry with a more immersive, 3D experience for surgeons — even as the need for surgical robots in most procedures remains hotly debated.

Robot-assisted surgery has boomed in the past 20 years, led by Intuitive, the company that makes the popular da Vinci robot. Vicarious Surgical, the new company that went public last month, claims it can do better than what exists on the market — “legacy systems,” as co-founder and roboticist Adam Sachs refers to them, declining to critique Intuitive specifically. “I’d prefer to leave the criticism of Intuitive to, you know, hospitals and surgeons,” he said.


By pairing a smaller, more flexible robot with virtual reality technology and 28 sensors on each arm, the Vicarious robot allows surgeons, said Sachs, to feel as if they are inside a patient, looking and moving around with more control. “Because now we’re building robots that operate from inside the abdomen instead of across the abdominal wall, we have the ability to actually make those arms work like a human arm, naturally work like the surgeon’s arm, and have the ability to have a camera that can actually follow the motion of the surgeon’s head,” he said.

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