Robot lung probe wins licence from US authorities

'Bronchoscope' can slither down your throat and tickle your trachea all by itself

Startup Auris Surgical Robots has formally joined the robotic surgery market, securing a United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) license.

Don't worry, you're not going to see The Terminator looming over you as the anaesthetic takes hold: the device, from Auris Surgical Robots, is a bronchoscope.

Auris doesn't have much to say about itself beyond naming its founders and telling us it's based in Silicon Valley.

What we do know is that the FDA's approval, here, gives its Auris Robotic Endoscopy System (ARES) a tick, meaning the agency reckons the device is safe. For example, it's not going to abandon its programming, set up a union and present a list of demands to its owners.

Launched with the backing of the controversial Peter Thiel, Auris raised US$150 million last year, and used some of that in April to buy an outfit called Hansen Medical, which specialises in microsurgery robots.

Bronchoscopy is a natural first step for the company: the mechanical process of inserting a 'scope into the lungs is well-known and safe.

Making the machine fully-autonomous also reduces operators' exposure to the radiation often used to help guide endoscopes.

According to the IEEE, Auris' patents suggests a product roadmap for the company: success for the bronchoscopy machine could be followed up by adding surgical capabilities to the robot. ®

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