About nine months ago, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky showed up at the Silicon Valley office of a start-up called Verb Surgical. They challenged each other to use robotic arms to put sutures into a squishy, synthetic tissue.
That particular robot, created by a collaboration of engineers from Google and J&J, is still a prototype and won't hit the market for a few years. The technology is still off-limits to the outside world, but employees and a few visiting surgeons have tried it out.
Google parent company Alphabet has a slew of big bets in health care, including technology to help manage diabetes and tools for people with Parkinson's disease, but its investment in Verb's surgical robotics business could prove to be the biggest yet.
Verb's goal is to introduce a better, cheaper surgical robot into the market in 2020, plus a bunch of software tools for capturing insights from procedures.
It's a huge potential market.