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Google’s training AI to catch diabetic blindness before it’s too late

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downloadDiabetes is no joke, regardless of what Wilford Brimley memes you’ve seen. The disease’s associated foot ulcers can lead to amputation of the limb while diabetic retinopathy (DR) can rob people of their sight. Some 415 million diabetics worldwide are at risk of this visual affliction and many of those living with it in the developing world lack sufficient health care access to treat it. That’s why Google is training its deep learning AI to spot DR before it becomes a problem — and without the help of an on-site doctor.

Since the disease is most readily diagnosed by examining a picture of the back of the eye, the Google team has spent the past few years developing a dataset of 128,000 individual images, each examined by 3-7 ophthalmologists from a panel of 54. By marking damaged areas of the eye — microaneurysms, hemorrhages and the like — and then feeding that data into a machine learning system, Google managed to build a highly reliable diagnostic tool. When tested with 12,000 images, the system’s diagnosis was “on-par with that of ophthalmologists” according to the Google Research Blog post.

By Andrew Tarantola | engadget

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J&J and Google’s Verb Surgical looks to define, lift robotic surgery

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verb_surgical_logoRobotic surgery units available on the market right now are not technically “robots,” according to Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) worldwide medical devices chairman Gary Pruden.

But Verb Surgical, J&J’s joint venture with Google parent Alphabet‘s (NSDQ:GOOGL) Verily Life Sciences, will be looking to produce a system that is truly robotic, and that will help improve surgical outcomes worldwide.

According to Pruden, speaking with MassDevice.com at AdvaMed’s 2016 annual meeting in Minneapolis this week, he and Verily CEO Andrew Conrad set out to assess the field of robotic surgery. The fast-growing sector is dominated by Intuitive Surgical (NSDQ:ISRG) and its da Vincisystem.

“We went out and looked at the market, and after, [Conrad] came back and said, ‘That’s not a robot,’” Pruden told us. “All that is is an extension of the physician’s eyes and hands. A robot is supposed to tell you valuable information that’s going to help guide you, it will do some things automatically for you. It will use Big Data, it would use anatomical recognition software, things of that nature, which are currently not available today.”

Verb Surgical will look to implement a “transformative agenda’ in the field of robotics,” with the goal of “democratizing surgery,” according to Pruden.

By Fink Densford | MassDevice

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The Recipe for the Perfect Robot Surgeon

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surgicalbotsIntuitive Surgical’s da Vinci robot is a technical marvel. Nearly half a million operations were performed in the U.S. by surgeons controlling its large, precise arms last year. One in four U.S. hospitals has one or more of the machines, which perform the majority of robotic surgeries worldwide and are credited with making minimally invasive surgery commonplace.

But when executives from Verb Surgical, a secretive joint venture between Alphabet and Johnson & Johnson, presented at the robotics industry conference RoboBusiness late last month, they made the da Vinci sound lame.

Intuitive’s machine, with an average selling price of $1.54 million, is too expensive and bulky, they grumbled. Pablo Garcia Kilroy, Verb’s vice president of research and technology, complained that while da Vinci is an impressive tool, it’s a dumb one that hasn’t widely transformed surgery. He said that while it enables surgeons to perform very delicate movements, it doesn’t assist with the cognitive skills that set the best surgeons apart.

By Tom Simonite | MIT Technology Review

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Verb’s Huennekens unveils vision of next-gen robotic surgery

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surgeryVerb Surgical is working on what it sees as “Surgery 4.0”: the next iteration of surgery that incorporates robotics, advanced visualization, machine learning, data analytics and connectivity. It expects that its technology could translate into real access for billions globally who currently don’t have access to surgery by lowering costs and reducing the training threshold.

Along with Johnson & Johnson’s ($JNJ) Ethicon and Alphabet’s ($GOOG) Verily, Verb expects to have a fully working prototype surgical system by year end. Ethicon already divulged earlier this year that there was a prototype of the robotic system. A surgical system isn’t expected to be on the market, though, until 2020.

“We envision a future in surgery where we move from having a mainframe computer to a PC on every desk to a cell phone in every pocket,” Verb President and CEO Scott Huennekens toldFierceMedicalDevices. “Everybody has access at a much lower cost with a much lower threshold for training.”

He said that Ethicon is specifically contributing its surgical instrumentation, while Verily and Google are bringing to the table data analytics and machine learning tech. The expectation is that these surgical systems will talk to each other–and learn systematically.

By Stacy Lawrence | FierceBiotech

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Move Over, Intuitive Surgical, Here’s How Johnson & Johnson and Google Plan to Build a Better Robot

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1474461628976Surgical robotics company Intuitive Surgical’s (NASDAQ:ISRG) near-monopoly is facing a threat from two of America’s most powerful companies, Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The corporate giants are collaborating in a new company called Verb Surgical, which has its sights set on introducing a safer, more cost-effective, and (here’s the truly exciting part) smarter surgical robot.

Fortunately for Intuitive Surgical, the impact from this competitive threat could be diluted since there should be room for multiple players in this market. Surgical robotics is growing annually in the mid single digits and is expected to reach $20 billion by 2020. The surgical industry accounts for $500 billion of current healthcare spending, and just 5%-10% of these surgeries use robots. As the industry grows, there should be plenty of space for expansion of robotics into new facilities and wider surgical procedures, opening up the market to multiple players.

By Cheryl Swanson | The Motley Fool

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How Google Plans to Reinvent Healthcare

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Verily_croppedGlucose-monitoring contact lenses for diabetics, wrist computers that read diagnostic nanoparticles injected in the blood stream, implantable devices that modify electrical signals that pass along nerves, medication robots, human augmentation, human brain simulation — the list goes on.

That’s not an inventory of improbable CGI effects from the latest sci-fi movie, it’s a list of initiatives being tackled by Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google Life Sciences research unit, recently rebranded Verily.

For those who appreciate The Motley Fool’s affection for William Shakespeare, “verily” is Shakespearean-era word that means “truly,” or “confidently.” As in: “I verily believe that sweater is the ugliest one I have ever seen.”

Confidence certainly exemplifies Google. Verily was hatched from Google X, the company’s secretive lab for oft-nutty projects, such as space elevators, teleportation, and hoverboards. Google X also launched Google Glass, which was undoubtedly a super-cool device, but wasn’t received well by its intended market, to put it mildly.

With that kind of background, what are the chances Verily will unleash something that will change healthcare? Are good things about to flow? Or — courtesy of the Bard of Avon — is Verily merely a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? Let’s look at Verily’s current financial situation and then check out the prospect of a marketable product that could move Google’s needle.

By Cheryl Swanson | The Motley Fool

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Google hopes AI can improve head and neck cancer treatment

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downloadGoogle’s DeepMind division launched its Health initiative earlier this year in an effort to use machine learning for medical purposes. Now, that initiative has launched a project that would speed up planning for neck and cancer radiotherapy treatments. DeepMind Health has joined forces with the the UK’s National Health Service to analyze scans, all of which will be anonymized, from 700 former cancer patients at the University College London Hospital. See, it takes up to four hours for clinicians to painstakingly map out areas of the head and neck that need radiotherapy treatment. Those areas contain vital parts of the body, and clinicians need to make sure healthy cells remain untouched.

By analyzing samples from UCLH, DeepMind Health hopes to develop a technique to reduce the time it takes to map out areas that need treatment to an hour. It won’t make the process called “segmentation” automated. Clinicians will still be in charge, but it will make planning easier for medical professionals and will free up more of their time for patient care, education and research. DeepMind also intends to use the data it gleans from analyzing the samples to develop a radiotherapy segmentation algorithm that can be applied to other parts of the body.

By Mariella Moon | Engadget

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