BEIJING -- Chinese haptic robotics startup Intelligent Haptronic Solutions has raised several million yuan in an angel round from Aplus Labs and Initial Science Value Investment, 36Kr has learned.
A shortage of skilled doctors and surgeons is a big challenge at Chinese hospitals. To solve the problem, IHS developed training robots for gastrointestinal endoscopic surgeries. The robot- and virtual reality-based digestive endoscopy simulators will allow medical students and young doctors to easily receive surgical training.
The startup's core technology is haptic robotics.
When a trainee moves an operating handle, human-computer interaction, or HCI, systems digitize the movement and send the figures to VR systems.
The VR systems calculate how much a VR environment will change and how much force feedback will get based on sent data. They then send the result to the HCI systems, which reproduce force feedback with the handle based on the figures.
The systems produce sensations that allow trainees to know when they have touched the intestinal wall. When one touches digestive organs and lesions, the lesions will be displayed on a monitor and an audio effect will sound.
IHS has done three large-scale technical upgrades since it was founded three years ago. The latest prototype for training robots, for which the company has patents and software copyrights, are to soon go into mass production in the U.S. and China.
3D Systems of the U.S., Surgical Science of Sweden and CAE of Canada are leaders in robotics-assisted surgical training simulators. The competitive edge of IHS lies in its ability to provide data and training curricula better suited to Asian markets.
IHS is conducting joint research with well-known Chinese hospitals, and the patient data utilized during training sessions is obtained from actual surgeries. Therefore, patients' age, sex, race and psychological reactions reflect the actual situation in China.
IHS has teamed up with Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, Shenzhen Hospital of Southern Medical University and nine other hospitals for clinical studies.
The company also has industry-academia partnerships with three hospitals.
The IHS robots will be officially introduced in September at Shenzhen Hospital of Southern Medical University. The company has also agreed to introduce its robots at Vancouver General Hospital in Canada and Shenzhen University General Hospital in China. It hopes to increase its influence based on clinical studies at these hospitals. It expects to start mass production in the first quarter of 2021 and to ship 60 to 80 robots that year.
The market's big competitors -- 3D Systems, Surgical Science and CAE -- offer products ranging in price from 1.5 million yuan to 2 million yuan ($215,514 to $287,352). IHS' robots will go for 600,000 yuan to 800,000 yuan; leasing options will be available. With this focus on cost performance, the company hopes to win over medical institutions in China.
IHS has two revenue streams. It sells equipment to hospitals and medical schools, and collects fees for the use and upgrading of training simulators and software. This stream account for 70% of the company's total sales.
In addition, IHS sells endoscopic surgery training software that medical students and young doctors can install on their computers. In this stream, IHS also collects fees for training and use of cloud platforms. Sales from this stream make up 30% of total sales.
In addition to its operation in China, IHS plans to expand in North America and Southeast Asia. The three regions' combined endoscopic surgery training market will amount to around 30 billion yuan, plus training and cloud fees.
IHS is currently aiming to raise 12 million yuan for the mass-production of its products in a pre-A series round that would dilute its stock by 10%. After the fundraising round, the startup's valuation will be about 120 million yuan.
36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.
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For the Chinese version, click here.