[video] New robotic pill with wireless camera to revolutionize endoscopy


American startup enters clinical trials with swallowable PillBot.

A startup has developed a swallowable robotic pill that is set to revolutionize endoscopy. Created by California-based Endiatx, the pistachio-sized PillBot is a remote-controlled, digestible mini-robotic camera designed to eliminate the need for invasive medical procedures. Dubbed a virtual endoscope, it is virtually a moving eyeball in the stomach that navigates the stomach using pumpjet thrusters. Patients simply swallow PillBot while awake after skipping meals and drinking plenty of water.

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With numerous stomach cancer cases - 11,000 in the U.S. and 800,000 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization - diagnosed too late for effective treatment, traditional upper endoscopies (EGDs) often can’t keep up with the demand due to overbooked facilities and staff shortages.

Endiatx, which was founded in 2019, asserts that this pill-shaped camera allows patients to consult gastroenterologists globally from their homes. PillBot is an ingestible robotic capsule equipped with cameras, sensors, and wireless communication technology, allowing doctors to examine the gastrointestinal tract with remarkable precision and control.

It enables physicians to quickly inspect the stomach during a telemedicine session, potentially replacing EGDs.

The current prototype, measuring only 13mm by 30mm, transmits high-resolution video at 2.3 megapixels per second, with plans to quadruple this quality soon, according to Smith. Using a smartphone app, doctors remotely control the robot within the patient’s stomach. The PillBot naturally exits the body within six to twenty-four hours. The team is also working on AI integration for preliminary diagnoses, which a physician will then use to develop a treatment plan.

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Endiatx envisions a future where PillBot becomes fully autonomous with AI guidance, potentially broadening its reach and saving numerous lives through early detection and treatment of gastrointestinal issues. The technology could eventually expand to examine other parts of the body, such as the bowels, vascular system, heart, liver, and brain, allowing hospitals to focus on more urgent medical care and surgeries.

Live demonstration

In a TED talk, co-founder and engineer Alex Luebke demonstrated the company's latest invention by swallowing one of these pills live on stage, providing a unique demonstration of this game-changing technology (see the video below).

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Controlled remotely by Mayo Clinic professor and PillBot co-founder Vivek Kumbhari using a PlayStation 5 controller, the audience watched a live feed from Luebke’s esophagus and stomach. Kumbhari illustrated the device’s maneuverability in a water tank, emphasizing its ability to provide views comparable to a conventional endoscope.

With clinical trials underway, the company aims to secure Federal Drug Administration approval and launch commercially in the U.S. by early 2026.

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