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In pharmaceutical manufacturing, every time people enter a clean room to address a manufacturing error, they could disrupt the sterile environment. SRI International has developed the XRGo telemanipulation software, which it said could allow staffers to remotely control a third-party robotic arm.
XRGo provides fine controls so an operator can conduct tasks such as adjusting misaligned test tubes or performing routine maintenance without ever needing to enter the room, said SRI. This also protects the pharmaceuticals from contamination, the company said.
“Automated processes require human oversight and occasional intervention,” wrote Bill Rusitzky, vice president of business development at SRI, in a blog post.
“By allowing people to do this from outside the sterile area, we avoid having to endanger the pharmaceuticals or, in some cases, throw them out,” he added. “As much as possible, we want to remove the interaction between people and the pharmaceutical product. The Annex 1 regulation in Europe is just the start of what governments will start to require.”
XRGo could open up pharmaceutical jobs
Remote manipulation could also help protect pharmaceutical workers, noted SRI. Some products, such as the radioactive chemicals used in chemotherapy, are hazardous.
“Removing people from those situations is critical and has the added long-term benefit of opening these jobs up to people who were not physically capable of performing them in person,” Rusitzky said. “The pharmaceutical companies that we’re working with are confident that this is something that the industry needs to do, and they’re excited about XRGo’s potential in this space.”
SRI VP discusses telemanipulation development
How long have you been working on XRGo for minimally invasive surgery?
Rusitzky: SRI has been working in the field of robotics for decades. Some may remember Shakey may remember Shakey the robot from the late 1960s. We also spun out of Intuitive Surgical in the late ’90s.
XRGo is continued expertise in the field.
Does XRGo use standard augmented reality, virtual reality, and control hardware?
Rusitzky: Yes, we use standard off-the-shelf VR headsets. Today, we use the Meta/Facebook VR Headset
What robots does the teleoperation software work with? Are they your own or another off-the-shelf?
Did SRI need U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for this technology? When do you expect such approvals?
Rusitzky: We are working with pharma companies to test use cases. Once the use cases have been fully tested, we will work with the Pharma companies to get FDA approval that are required.
Will you license it as you did with the da Vinci to Intuitive Surgical?
Rusitzky: We are working on the right business model. We expect to license XRGo.
What price point are you aiming for with the system, and who are the target customers? When will you pursue other potential markets?
Rusitzky: We aren’t at liberty to publicly share a price at this point.
Targets for now [include] pharma, but we can also see this working wherever humans can’t physically go, such as bomb disposal, food processing, and high-risk energy maintenance in offshore oil.
Are customers using the proof of concept, or are you still refining it and waiting for approvals?
Rusitzky: Yes, we are working with one of the largest pharma companies.