The following paper is a “Q & A interview” conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned entrepreneur regarding the evolution, commercialization and challenges of bringing a technological invention to market.
The interviewee is Dr Yulun Wang, an inventor, self-taught entrepreneur, business leader and world-renowned authority on robotics and health care. Dr Wang shares his successful three-decade journey that began with researching the market needs and aligning himself with medical experts, followed by pioneering robotic solutions specifically for the health care industry. In the process, Dr Wang founded and spearheaded both a public and private robotics company.
Dr Yulun Wang received a BSc and an MSc in Computer Science, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering, from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). After teaching at UCSB for a few years, with a grant he won from NASA, Dr Wang founded Computer Motion, Inc. in 1989 and conducted research on endoscopic robots. Computer Motion went public in 1997 and later merged with its competitor, Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:IRSG) in 2003 to forge the multi-billion dollar surgical robotics industry. Dr Wang founded InTouch Technologies (d.b.a. InTouch Health), in 2002, named one of the fastest-growing biomedical companies in the USA by INC Magazine.
Dr Wang launched his career at the intersection of health care and technology with his invention of the voice-controlled robotic arm AESOP, the first US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared surgical robot. His next generation ZEUS robotic surgical system (ZRSS), was cleared by the FDA in 2001. Also in 2001, ZRSS was used in the world’s first telesurgery, as surgeons in New York controlled the arms of the Zeus to perform a cholecystectomy on a patient in Strasbourg, France, via a high-speed fiber optic supplied by France Telecom. This led Dr Wang to found InTouch Health, a company that pioneers remote presence robot systems that enable health care professionals to provide more effective and efficient health care. Dr Wang has received multiple other entrepreneurship and leadership awards, including being elected to the prestigious ranks of the National Academy of Engineering in 2011. He is the author of over 50 scientific publications, and holds over 100 patents registered in his name. Dr Wang serves on several boards, including the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) Board of Directors, where he also serves as an officer.
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