AUSTIN, Texas — Diligent Robotics Inc. today announced that it has finished beta testing of its Moxi robot, which is designed to assist hospital personnel. The company also announced that it has raised $3 million in seed funding.
Recognized innovators Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu co-founded Diligent Robotics in 2017, and they began testing Moxi in four hospitals in Texas last year. The robot is designed to include mobile manipulation and social intelligence capabilities.
True Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures led the funding round, with participation from North Coast Ventures, Capital Factory, Pathbreaker Ventures, Boom Capital, Grit Ventures, and angel investors. Diligent Robotics had two previous fundraising rounds, including $2.1 seed funding in January 2018 led by True Ventures and Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Science Foundation worth $725,000.
“Our vision is to improve the way people think about their work by giving them more time to utilize their unique human skills and let friendly robot assistants efficiently take care of their chores,” stated Thomaz, CEO of Diligent Robotics. “We are proud to have the full support of our past investors as well new key investors to accelerate the rollout of Moxi robots into hospitals.”
Diligent Robotics designs Moxi as an aide
“There will be a shortage of 1.1 million registered nurses in the U.S. in 2022, and 9 million in 2030,” Thomaz said at a recent MIT event. “We wanted to solve the interesting problem of having service robots help people in semi-structured environments like hospitals.”
“During our beta trials, we were focused on learning as much as we could about clinical workflows and opportunities for automation to make the biggest impact,” she told The Robot Report. “We learned so much from all of the 125 nurses that Moxi had the privilege to work alongside during the trials and now are very excited to act on those learnings and roll out Moxi as a full-time hospital teammate that makes a real impact on workflows.”
Moxi uses machine learning for object recognition, grasping, and learning tasks in real time. It was built on a mobile base and navigation software based on the Robot Operating System from Fetch Robotics. Moxi also includes a lidar sensor from Velodyne, a camera from Intel, an arm from Kinova, and a gripper from Robotiq.
“Because of ramps and other technologies, hospitals are already robot-accessible,” Thomaz said. “Doors proved to be the biggest architectural challenge. We work with hospital IT to enable Moxi to integrate with various software systems in the hospital.”
Moxi’s torso and head can change in height, and it has a humanoid face for interacting with people. The goal was to have a form that is nonthreatening but still useful for picking up dropped items, for example.
“Another hugely pleasant surprise during our beta trials was the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Moxi by patients and their families, along with the front-line staff working with Moxi,” said Thomaz. “We are humbled to get the opportunity to focus on building a product designed to positively impact nursing and healthcare, and felt very proud seeing such an immediately positive reception of Moxi across the board during our beta trials.”
Diligent Robotics describes itself as an artificial intelligence company, with the goal of applying AI so that people can attend to high-value tasks such as caring for patients. Moxi is not designed for patient-facing tasks, but it can help with retrieving and bringing supplies to hospital rooms and nursing stations or delivering samples to laboratories.
The company plans to use its latest funding to continue developing both its hardware and software and for the product launch.
“We fully expect that our product will continue to evolve as we roll out with our first set of strategic partner customers this year and gain further insights into ways to drive value for them,” said Thomaz. “Our focus initially is on delivery-support tasks that take nurses away from the patient floor, and we are continually honing Moxi’s dexterity to handle an even a wider variety of objects for materials-management tasks.”
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration is now open.
Moxi available now
“Over the last year, Diligent Robotics has made rapid progress in delivering and testing Moxi in multiple hospitals,” said Rohit Sharma, partner at True Ventures and a member of Diligent Robotics’ board. “The team continues to demonstrate unmatched robotics-specific innovation by combining social intelligence and human-guided learning capabilities. We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Vivian and Andrea as they build a world-class, leading robotics company.”
Moxi is available in a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model. “Cost is based on the customized utilization of each Moxi robot for every hospital’s particular needs,” explained Thomaz.
“As the first robotics company to introduce a social robot into a hospital full-time, we’re laser-focused on quality, not quantity, when it comes to our first few full-time hospital implementations,” she said. “We will have other exciting news to share later in 2019 and 2020.”