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Health Care

Surgical robots face cheaper rivals as key patents expire

Japanese startups enter market long dominated by Intuitive's da Vinci

Riverfield's surgical robot is driven by pneumatics for better tactile feedback. (Photo by Eisaku Nitta)

TOKYO -- In a lab at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, a doctor in a control booth is laser-focused on controllers in each hand. A mechanical arm hums as it cuts into and sutures a pig lying a few paces away.

This is to test a surgical robot developed by Riverfield, a medical startup spawned from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The company aims to finalize its product as early as this month and bring it to market in fiscal 2022 for lung cancer and other patients.

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