Diligent Robotics Inc. last week announced that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The Austin, Texas-based company has been developing Moxi, a mobile manipulator designed to assist hospital personnel.
While robots for hospitals have received much attention lately because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vivian Chu and Andrea Thomaz have been working on hospital service robots since founding Diligent in 2017. Thomaz spoke at the inaugural Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum.
Even before the current global health crisis, many nurses were forced to spend time on non-nursing activities, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. More than 30% of hospitals reported that they could not find enough candidates to fill open clinical positions, and clinician turnover was almost 20%. Nursing burnout costs $9 billion for hospitals annually and $14 billion for the healthcare system overall, said the report.
Moxi to come to clinicians’ aid
“Since launching Diligent in 2017, we have had the opportunity and the privilege to work alongside hundreds of nurses, to understand their work, and help them redesign workflows to incorporate Moxi,” stated Thomaz, co-founder and CEO of Diligent Robotics. “Seeing the passion and humanity that nurses bring to their job has become the most inspiring part of our work.”
“Now more than ever, hospitals are under enormous stress, and the people bearing the most risk in this pandemic are the nurses and clinicians at the frontlines of patient care,” she added. “Our mission with Moxi has always been focused on relieving tasks from nurses, giving them more time to focus on patients, and today that mission has a newfound meaning and purpose. Time and again, we hear from our hospital partners that Moxi not only returns time back to their day but also brings a smile to their face.”
Moxi is designed to relieve clinical staffers of some tedious tasks so they can focus more on patient care. The robot uses machine learning for perceiving and manipulating objects, a mobile platform from Fetch Robotics, a Kinova arm, and a Robotiq gripper.
Moxi has been successfully deployed in several U.S. hospitals. The robot is currently retrieving and delivering supplies for front-line clinicians.
“We build artificial intelligence that enables service robots to collaborate with people and adapt to dynamic human environments,” said Chu, co-founder and chief technology officer of Diligent Robotics. “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.”
Diligent Robotics invests in growth
DNX Ventures led the round, which included investment from True Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, and Next Coast Ventures, as well as new participants E14 Fund, Grit Ventures, and Promus Ventures. Diligent Robotics raised $3 million in seed funding in October 2019.
“As the current pandemic and circumstance [have] shown, the real heroes are our healthcare providers,” said Q Motiwala, partner at DNX Ventures and newly named board member for Diligent Robotics, “Diligent Robotics has built a hospital robot assistant, Moxi, to help solve one of healthcare provider’s biggest challenges — nursing shortages.”
Diligent Robotics said the latest funding will help it scale its system to a wider customer base as well as invest in product strategy and development in both hardware and software. Humanoid and service robots have faced both technical and marketing challenges.
“We envision a future powered by robots that work seamlessly with human teams,” said Thomaz. “We are enabling our hospital customers redesign workflows for their frontline teams, letting nurses make full use of their specialized skills, letting robots handle tedious fetching tasks and other routine work.”