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Google's Next Goal: Trying to Improve Robot-Assisted Surgery


Google has had its tentacles in both the robotics and health-care sectors for some time. Now the Mountain View, Calif.-based mammoth is bridging its ambitions in both arenas by partnering with Johnson & Johnson to build robots that will assist surgeons in the operating room.


Yes, Google is headed inside people’s bodies. It was only a matter of time.   

The two corporate giants recently partnered to leverage the Google X Life Sciences team, the brains behind Google’s blood sugar-measuring contact lenses and a cancer-detecting pill. The group is comprised of about 100 leading chemists, biologists, and doctors.

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Specifically, the search giant is partnering with Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson’s surgical devices arm. The financial particulars of the deal, which Google says isn’t related its Replicant robotics division, were not disclosed.

“The companies will bring together capabilities, intellectual property and expertise to create an innovative robotic-assisted surgical platform capable of integrating advanced technologies with the goal of improving health care delivery in the operating room,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

The partnership, subject to review by antitrust authorities, is slated to close in the second quarter. The early stages of the collaboration will be centered on developing an advanced, robot-assisted surgery platform for thoracic, colorectal and gynecological procedures, Johnson & Johnson told The Wall Street Journal.

Related: 5 Remarkable Facts About the Future of Health Care

"By bringing together Google's expertise in computer science and imaging technology with Ethicon's expertise in surgical instrumentation and medicine, we hope to someday improve the experience of both surgeons and patients in the operating room," Andrew Conrad, head of Google X Life Sciences, said in a statement.

Ethicon will leverage Google’s image analysis and machine vision software to enhance what surgeons can see when performing minimally invasive operations involving robotics.

Google has grown increasingly more focused on robotics in recent years, scooping up more than half a dozen robotics companies since 2013. Among them are Boston Dynamics, maker of a sprinting four-legged cyborg called Cheetah, and SCHAFT, Inc., creator of the super strong S-One humanoid robot.

Related: Big Data Has the Potential to Transform Health Care

Meanwhile, the company has also stepped up its efforts to break into the healthcare industry, a heavily regulated sector that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said they were initially hesitant to enter. Last year the company unveiled a groundbreaking genetics initiative to uncover what a perfectly healthy human being should look like.

Google is already the all-seeing eye of what you search for online. In the future, it will be inside of people, helping surgeons see better while they play high-tech Operation.  

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