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Google, Johnson & Johnson to partner on surgical robot technology

Google has formed a partnership with medical and consumer goods firm Johnson & Johnson that will see the development of robots to help surgeons in the operating room, according to an announcement made on Friday.

Johnson & Johsnon said that the deal should be completed in the second quarter, but is still awaiting a review by antitrust regulators. Google will specifically be working with Ethicon, a J&J division dedicated to surgical technology.

In particular the robots will help with minimally invasive surgeries that limit problems like scarring, pain, and lengthy recoveries. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google will be bringing machine vision and image analysis software to the table, with the aim of giving surgeons a better view of operations and/or easier access to relevant information.

One possibility suggested by Google was real-time image analysis, highlighting objects like nerves, blood vessels, and tumors that need to be removed. In another, the company noted that surgeons might be able to see images like MRI scans and anatomical guides on the same screen they're using to control a robot, rather than on several different displays.

Google began taking steps into the medical world last year when it launched its Google Genomics division. That unit has created an API for storing, processing, and sharing DNA sequencing using Google's cloud infrastructure, and is charging $25 per year to store a genome.

Apple is also venturing into medical technology, with recent efforts revolving around two iOS APIs, HealthKit and ResearchKit. The former centralizes health and fitness data in iOS 8's Health app, while ResearchKit is an open-source framework for iOS-supported medical trials.