America’s largest companies push for federal online privacy laws to circumvent state regulatory efforts

As California moves ahead with what would be the most restrictive online privacy laws in the nation, the chief executives of some of the nation’s largest companies are taking their case to the nation’s capitol to plead for federal regulation.

Chief executives at Amazon, AT&T, Dell, Ford, IBM, Qualcomm, Walmart and other leading financial services, manufacturing and technology companies have issued an open letter to congressional leadership pleading with them to take action on online privacy, through the pro-industry organization, The Business Roundtable.

“Now is the time for Congress to act and ensure that consumers are not faced with confusion about their rights and protections based on a patchwork of inconsistent state laws. Further, as the regulatory landscape becomes increasingly fragmented and more complex, U.S. innovation and global competitiveness in the digital economy are threatened,” the letter says.

The subtext to this call to action is the California privacy regulations that are set to take effect by the end of this year.

As we noted when the bill was passed last year there are a few key components of the California legislation, including the following requirements:

  • Businesses must disclose what information they collect, what business purpose they do so for and any third parties they share that data with.

  • Businesses would be required to comply with official consumer requests to delete that data.

  • Consumers can opt out of their data being sold, and businesses can’t retaliate by changing the price or level of service.

  • Businesses can, however, offer “financial incentives” for being allowed to collect data.

  • California authorities are empowered to fine companies for violations.

There’s a reason why companies would push for federal regulation to supersede any initiatives from the states. It is more of a challenge for companies to adhere to a patchwork of different regulatory regimes at the state level. But it’s also true that companies, following the lead of automakers in California, could just adhere to the most stringent requirements, which would clarify any confusion.

Indeed, many of these companies are already complying with strict privacy regulations thanks to the passage of the GDPR in Europe.

Startups Weekly: Peloton’s 29 secret weapons

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about a new e-commerce startup, Pietra. Before that, I wrote about the flurry of IPO filings.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

What’s new?

Peloton revealed its S-1 this week, taking a big step toward an IPO expected later this year. The filing was packed with interesting tidbits, including that the company, which manufacturers internet-connected stationary bikes and sells an affiliated subscription to its growing library of on-demand fitness content, is raking in more than $900 million in annual revenue. Sure, it’s not profitable, and it’s losing an increasing amount of money to sales and marketing efforts, but for a company that many people wrote off from the very beginning, it’s an impressive feat.

Despite being a hardware, media, interactive software, product design, social connection, apparel and logistics company, according to its S-1, the future of Peloton relies on its talent. Not the employees developing the bikes and software but the 29 instructors teaching its digital fitness courses. Ally Love, Alex Toussaint and the 27 other teachers have developed cult followings, fans who will happily pay Peloton’s steep $39 per month content subscription to get their daily dose of Ben or Christine.

“To create Peloton, we needed to build what we believed to be the best indoor bike on the market, recruit the best instructors in the world, and engineer a state-of-the-art software platform to tie it all together,” founder and CEO John Foley writes in the IPO prospectus. “Against prevailing conventional wisdom, and despite countless investor conference rooms full of very smart skeptics, we were determined for Peloton to build a vertically integrated platform to deliver a seamless end-to-end experience as physically rewarding and addictive as attending a live, in-studio class.”

Peloton succeeded in poaching the best of the best. The question is, can they keep them? Will competition in the fast-growing fitness technology sector swoop in and scoop Peloton’s stars?

In other news

Last week I published a long feature on the state of seed investing in the Bay Area. The TL;DR? Mega-funds are increasingly battling seed-stage investors for access to the hottest companies. As a result, seed investors are getting a little more creative about how they source deals. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and everyone wants a stake in The Next Big Thing. Read the story here.

Rounds of the week

DISRUPT SF 530X350 V1 1

Time to Disrupt

Don’t miss out on our flagship Disrupt, which takes place October 2-4. It’s the quintessential tech conference for anyone focused on early-stage startups. Join more than 10,000 attendees — including over 1,200 exhibiting startups — for three jam-packed days of programming. We’re talking four different stages with interactive workshops, Q&A sessions and interviews with some of the industry’s top tech titans, founders, investors, movers and shakers. Check out our list of speakers and the Disrupt agenda. I will be there interviewing a bunch of tech leaders, including Bastian Lehmann and Charles Hudson. Buy tickets here.

Listen

This week on Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, we had Floodgate’s Iris Choi on to discuss Peloton’s upcoming IPO. You can listen to it here. Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast and Spotify.

Learn

We published a number of new deep dives on Extra Crunch, our paid subscription product, this week. Here’s a quick look at the top stories:

How Pivotal got bailed out by fellow Dell family member, VMware

When Dell acquired EMC in 2016 for $67 billion, it created a complicated consortium of interconnected organizations. Some, like VMware and Pivotal, operate as completely separate companies. They have their own boards of directors, can acquire companies and are publicly traded on the stock market. Yet they work closely within Dell, partnering where it makes sense. When Pivotal’s stock price plunged recently, VMware saved the day when it bought the faltering company for $2.7 billion yesterday.

Pivotal went public last year, and sometimes struggled, but in June the wheels started to come off after a poor quarterly earnings report. The company had what MarketWatch aptly called “a train wreck of a quarter.”

How bad was it? So bad that its stock price was down 42% the day after it reported its earnings. While the quarter itself wasn’t so bad, with revenue up year over year, the guidance was another story. The company cut its 2020 revenue guidance by $40-$50 million and the guidance it gave for the upcoming 2Q 19 was also considerably lower than consensus Wall Street estimates.

The stock price plunged from a high of $21.44 on May 30th to a low of $8.30 on August 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $5.828 billion on May 30th to $2.257 billion on August 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.

VMware says it’s looking to acquire Pivotal

VMware today confirmed that it is in talks to acquire software development platform Pivotal Software, the service best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. The proposed transaction would see VMware acquire all outstanding Pivotal Class A stock for $15 per share, a significant markup over Pivotal’s current share price (which unsurprisingly shot up right after the announcement).

Pivotal’s shares have struggled since the company’s IPO in April 2018. The company was originally spun out of EMC Corporation (now DellEMC) and VMware in 2012 to focus on Cloud Foundry, an open-source software development platform that is currently in use by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. A lot of these enterprises are working with Pivotal to support their Cloud Foundry efforts. Dell itself continues to own the majority of VMware and Pivotal, and VMware also owns an interest in Pivotal already and sells Pivotal’s services to its customers as well. It’s a bit of an ouroboros of a transaction.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry was always the company’s main product, but it also offered additional consulting services on top of that. Despite improving its execution since going public, Pivotal still lost $31.7 million in its last financial quarter as its stock price traded at just over half of the IPO price. Indeed, the $15 per share VMware is offering is identical to Pivotal’s IPO price.

An acquisition by VMware would bring Pivotal’s journey full circle, though this is surely not the journey the Pivotal team expected. VMware is a Cloud Foundry Foundation platinum member, together with Pivotal, DellEMC, IBM, SAP and Suse, so I wouldn’t expect any major changes in VMware’s support of the overall open-source ecosystem behind Pivotal’s core platform.

It remains to be seen whether the acquisition will indeed happen, though. In a press release, VMware acknowledged the discussion between the two companies but noted that “there can be no assurance that any such agreement regarding the potential transaction will occur, and VMware does not intend to communicate further on this matter unless and until a definitive agreement is reached.” That’s the kind of sentence lawyers like to write. I would be quite surprised if this deal didn’t happen, though.

Buying Pivotal would also make sense in the grand scheme of VMware’s recent acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company acquired Bitnami and last year, it acquired Heptio, the startup founded by two of the three co-founders of the Kubernetes project, which now forms the basis of many new enterprise cloud deployments and, most recently, Pivotal Cloud Foundry.

On the road to self-driving trucks, Starsky Robotics built a traditional trucking business

More than three years ago, self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics was founded to solve a fundamental issue with freight — a solution that CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes hinges on getting the human driver out from behind the wheel.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Starsky Robotics started a regular ol’ trucking company. Now, nearly half of the employees at this self-driving truck startup help run a business that uses the traditional model of employing human drivers to haul loads for customers, TechCrunch has learned.

Starsky’s trucking business, which has been operating in secret for nearly two years alongside the company’s more public pursuit of developing autonomous vehicle technology, has hauled 2,200 loads for customers. The company has 36 regular trucks that only use human drivers to haul freight. It has three autonomous trucks that are driven and supported by a handful of test drivers. Starsky also employs a number of office people who, as Seltz-Axmacher notes, “know how to run trucks.”

The CEO and co-founder contends that without the human-driven trucking piece, Starsky won’t ever have an operational, or profitable, self-driving truck business. The trucking business has generated revenue, led to key partnerships such as Schneider Logistics, Penske and Transport Enterprise Leasing, and importantly, helped build a company that works in the real world. It has also been a critical tool for recruiting and vetting safety drivers and teleoperators (or remote drivers), according to Seltz-Axmacher.

“The decision to have a trucking business interact with the real trucking world in parallel with developing the robotics piece is a necessary part of building a longstanding business in the space,” said Reilly Brennan, general partner at Trucks VC and the first institutional investor in Starsky.

Starksy, which was co-founded by Seltz-Axmacher and Kartik Tiwari, has raised $21.7 million in equity from investors including Shasta Ventures and Trucks VC.

The evolution over at Starsky illustrates the challenge that awaits the autonomous vehicle industry and the giant companies and startups operating within it. Even after engineers solve the complexity of building an AI-powered driver that’s better than a human, these companies must figure out the equally intricate task of operations. Robotaxis, autonomous delivery robots and self-driving trucks won’t matter if humans don’t use, like or trust the tech.

Figuring out the basics of operations — including the rather pedestrian and obvious ones — will mean the difference between making or losing money. Or, having a business at all.

And the stakes are high. Trucks are the backbone of the U.S. economy and moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated more than $700 billion in 2017, according to the most up-to-date statistics available from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Companies pursuing robotaxis and other autonomous vehicle programs are going to eventually wake up — if they haven’t already — to the same realities that Starsky has accepted, Brennan contends.

“The interaction with the market, particularly in logistics, is vital,” Brennan said, adding that companies pursuing robotaxis that haven’t built out and tested a consumer-facing app risk the same problems. “They need to have a business on day one, not on day 720.”

For Starsky, it started with something as basic as having a working vehicle and access to mechanics that could fix it.

Trucks, the hard way

Seltz-Axmacher admits now he underestimated how difficult trucks could be.

“Hey, it’s a truck, how hard can buying one be?,” said Seltz-Axmacher, as he described the company’s first major purchase of a truck for about $50,000. “We quickly realized that having a truck and driving a truck are not easy things to do.”

Starsky engineers retrofitted the truck, named Rosebud, with its autonomous driving system and made plans to test it at the Thunderhill Raceway about 150 miles north of San Francisco. It didn’t make it. The truck’s engine was smoking by the time it crossed the Bay Bridge. And then the truck, along with all those engineers, sat for two weeks while Seltz-Axmacher hunted for a diesel mechanic.

Self-driving truck startup Starsky Robotics began with this first, and problematic truck

The truck, pictured above, continued to break down. The company ran into more snafus, including a problem with insurance and the title of the vehicle. Starsky was going to miss a key milestone and Seltz-Axmacher was going to have to tell investors that it wasn’t because of bottlenecks in engineering, but because they didn’t know how to manage the truck part of this self-driving truck company.

The founders learned that even “average” trucks needed to go to the shop every 60 days, which is operationally complex when vehicles are traveling throughout the United States.

Starsky ended up making a key hire, Paul Schlegel, who is a veteran of trucking operations, to organize the enterprise. Schlegel, who has 32 years in the transportation industry with companies such as Schneider National and Stevens Transport, developed the trucking business that enabled autonomous trucks, but still worked in their absence. The trucking operations team is in Dallas. 

The driver pinchpoint

Seltz-Axmacher has said repeatedly that “unless you’re getting the driver out of the truck, you’re not solving anything.”

The problem in trucking is the supply of drivers. The chronic shortage has, in turn, driven up costs. For instance, the median salary for a truckload driver working a national, irregular route was more than $53,000 — a $7,000 increase from ATA’s last survey, which covered annual pay for 2013, or an increase of 15%. It’s even higher for private fleet drivers, who saw their pay rise to more than $86,000 from $73,000, or a gain of nearly 18%.

Starksy soon found that finding the right drivers was just as hard as finding the right trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows the company has reported three crashes of its manually driven trucks.

Seltz-Axmacher said they’ve had a driver make a wrong turn and have a low-hanging branch rip a hole in the side of a trailer. The most serious incident involved a new driver who took an offramp in Florida too fast and rolled the truck onto its side. No one was injured and the driver was terminated.

These drivers are critical to the autonomous program and the best of them end up becoming teleop controllers, a job that involves sitting in an office, not logging days and weeks in a truck.

Starsky is taking a dual approach to its autonomous trucks. It outfits regular trucks with a combination of sensors like radar and cameras along with software that allows long-haul trucks to drive autonomously on the highway. When the truck is about to exit, a trained remote operator, who is sitting in an office, takes over and navigates the truck to its final destination.

The promise of being able to be promoted to teleoperator is a big part of how Starsky is able to hire drivers effectively. The company contends it wouldn’t be possible to find 25 highly skilled safety and remote drivers without having a broader fleet of regular truck drivers to choose from.

Robotrucks or bust

The ultimate goal of Starsky Robotics hasn’t changed, Seltz-Axmacher said. To get there, the company recently hired Ain McKendrick as vice president of engineering, and former Tesla executive Keith Flynn to head up its hardware manufacturing to support Starsky’s fleet build. McKendrick, who co-founded Podtek and Lyve, also has experience at autonomous vehicle company Cyngn, Highfive, Netflix and Dell .

By early 2020, the company aims to have 25 autonomous trucks — a goal that is only possible if it has 100 regular trucks, he added.

The only way Starsky can scale its operations on the autonomous side is to continue to scale its regular trucking operations six months in advance. In other words, the regular trucking business is inextricably linked to the success of deploying autonomous trucks.

The company has already found that the 15-plus brokers that are regularly giving it freight to haul are ready for driverless trucks.

“Many times the brokers who have given us loads have been fairly ambivalent to whether or not we’re hauling that freight with a self-driving truck, Seltz-Axmacher said. “A lot of the concern that people might have is that this is a technology-averse industry and might not be willing to accept self-driving trucks has proven not to be true.”

Medivis gets FDA approval for its augmented reality surgical planning toolkit

Augmented reality is coming to the operating room theater sooner than anyone may have predicted.

Medivis, which launched its product suite earlier this year, has now received approvals from the Food and Drug Administration and will begin rolling out its service in hospitals around the country.

The SurgicalAR platform is a visualization tool that guides surgical navigation, which the company claims can decrease complications and improve patient outcomes, while lowering surgical costs.

The New York-based company, which was founded by Osamah Choudhry and Christopher Morley who met as senior residents at NYU Medical Center, raised $2.3 million in financing led by Initialized Capital  and has secured partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to supply its hardware.

“Holographic visualization is the final frontier of surgical imaging and navigation,” said Osamah Choudhry, a trained neurosurgeon who serves as the chief executive at Medivis, in a statement. “The surgical world continues to primarily rely on two-dimensional imaging technology to understand and operate on incredibly complex patient pathology. Medivis introduces advancements in holographic visualization and navigation to fundamentally advance surgical intervention, and revolutionize how surgeons safely operate on their patients.”

In addition to its hardware partnership with Microsoft, Medivis has also lined up Verizon (whose media group owns TechCrunch) as a partner for its much ballyhooed 5G network.

The company has also launched a toolkit for educational training in augmented reality. The AnatomyX platform for medical training is available on Hololens and Magic Leap’s devices and is already in use at West Coast University.

Medivis is one of a number of companies that are looking to bring new technologies like AR and VR into the OR.

Vicarious Surgical is another upstart that’s got a vision for medicine’s future that includes augmented or extended reality. That company is combining visualization tools with robotics to enable remote surgeries that could, one day, happen across the country or across globe.

What these technologies have in common, and the reason why Verizon is likely very happy to partner with a company like Medivis, is the huge amounts of bandwidth that are going to be required to make their visions of the future come true.

As high speed networks begin cropping up, the attendant use cases haven’t kept pace. And new visualization tools that hoover up data are just the thing to keep money flowing into my corporate overlord’s pockets.

Not that it’s a bad thing. As Medivis’ chief operating officer, Dr. Christopher Morley said in a statement. “We are achieving this by rethinking core limitations in current medical visualization pipelines, and continuously pushing the limits of what’s possible.”

With foldable phones in limbo, foldable display laptops are on the horizon

With the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X currently in limbo for very different reasons, PC makers are apparently jumping at the chance to make their own foldable display ambitions known. It’s been clear, of course, for as long as flexible screens have been a viable technology, that hardware manufacturers would be experimenting with any and all form factors. In just the past week, two key players have talked up their plans for how it might be utilized on the PC front.

Last week, Lenovo showed off a prototype ThinkPad X1. The company’s been no stranger to experimental convertibles, and utilizing a foldable display could further blur the line been tablets and PCs. The technology allows for a large screen in a compact form factor. Here it’s 13.3 inches that can be collapsed into half the size, making it a lot easier to take with you.

It’s a slick prototype, and obviously folding form factors are already the standard in the laptop world. But like Lenovo’s past attempts at dual-screen devices, the on-screen removes the tactile keyboard, one of the biggest pain points in moving consumers away from more traditional laptops. Perhaps that’s something that could be addressed with the sorts of overlays provided by companies like Sensel.

Dell, too, recently told Gizmodo that it’s experimenting with a similar form factor. No surprise on that front, really. One expects that any PC maker worth its weight in netbooks is, at the very least, playing around with the concept as we speak.

All of this is complicated by the fact that the foldable phone category has been plagued with issues — though not necessarily the ones most people predicted. Samsung indefinitely pushed back the launch date of the Galaxy Fold after several reviewers ran into issues with their units.

We’re still waiting for official news on that front. Huawei, meanwhile, had a wrench thrown into its stratospheric ascendancy when the company was blacklisted by the Trump White House, leaving aspects of its future in jeopardy.

Neither of these are direct indictments of the concept — though Samsung’s model certainly failed in real-world testing. For that reason, it’s probably safe to say that the jury’s still out on consumer demand, though many of the major concerns, including pricing, would likely carry over to the PC category.

Google Cloud brings on 27-year SAP veteran as it doubles down on enterprise adoption

Thomas Kurian, the newly-minted CEO of Google Cloud, used the company’s Cloud Next conference last week to lay out his vision for the future of Google’s cloud computing platform. That vision involves, in part, a hiring spree to give businesses that want to work with Google more people to talk to and get help from. Unsurprisingly, Kurian is also looking to put his stamp on the executive team, too, and today announced that former SAP executive Robert Enslin is joining Google Cloud as its new President of Global Customer Operations.

Enslin’s hire is another clear signal that Kurian is focused on enterprise customers. Enslin, after all, is a veteran of the enterprise business, with 27 years at SAP, where he served on the company’s executive board until he announced his resignation from the company earlier this month. After leading various parts of SAP, including as president of its cloud product portfolio, president of SAP North America and CEO of SAP Japan, Enslin announced that he had “a few more aspirations to fulfill.” Those aspirations, we now know, include helping Google Cloud expand its lineup of enterprise customers.

“Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States—this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world,” Kurian writes in today’s announcement.

For the last two years, Google Cloud already had a President of Global Customer Operations, though, in the form of Paul-Henri Ferrand, a former Dell exec who was brought on by Google Cloud’s former CEO Diane Greene . Kurian says that Ferrand “has decided to take on a new challenge within Google.”

 

Nvidia announces its next-gen RTX pods with up to 1,280 GPUs

Nvidia wants to be a cloud powerhouse. While its history may be in graphics cards for gaming enthusiasts, its recent focus has been on its data center GPUs for AI, machine learning inference, inference and visualization. Today, at its GTC conference, the company announced its latest RTX server configuration for Hollywood studios and others who need to quickly generate visual content.

A full RTX server pod can support up to 1,280 Turing GPUs on 32 RTX blade servers. That’s 40 GPUs per server, with each server taking up an 8U space. The GPUs here are Quadro RTX 4000 or 6000 GPUs, depending on the configuration.

NVIDIA RTX Servers — which include fully optimized software stacks available for Optix RTX rendering, gaming, VR and AR, and professional visualization applications — can now deliver cinematic-quality graphics enhanced by ray tracing for far less than just the cost of electricity for a CPU-based rendering cluster with the same performance,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

All of this power can be shared by multiple users and the backend storage and networking interconnect is powered by technology from Mellanox, which Nvidia bought earlier this month for $6.9 billion. That acquisition and today’s news clearly show how important the data center has become for Nvidia’s future.

System makers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Supermicro will offer RTX servers to their customers, all of which have been validated by Nvidia and support the company’s software tools for managing the workloads that run on them.

Nvidia also stresses that these servers would work great for running AR and VR applications at the edge and then serving the visuals to clients over 5G networks. That’s a few too many buzzwords, I think, and consumer interest in AR and VR remains questionable, while 5G networks remain far from mainstream, too. Still, there’s a role for these servers in powering cloud gaming services, for example.

Robotics, AR and VR are poised to reshape healthcare, starting in the operating room

About 20 years ago, a medical device startup called Intuitive Surgical debuted the da Vinci robot and changed surgical practices in operating rooms across the United States.

The da Vinci ushered in the first age of robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a promise of greater accuracy and quicker recovery times for patients undergoing certain laparoscopic surgeries. 

For a time, it was largely alone in the market. It has skyrocketed in value since 2000, when the stock first debuted on public markets. From the $46 million that the company initially raised in its public offering to now, with a market capitalization of nearly $63 billion, Intuitive has been at the forefront of robotic-assisted surgeries, but now a new crop of startups is emerging to challenge the company’s dominance.

Backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital dollars, new businesses are coming to refashion operating rooms again — this time using new visualization and display technologies like virtual and augmented reality, and a new class of operating robots. Their vision is to drive down the cost and improve the quality of surgical procedures through automation and robotic equipment.

“There were 900,000 surgeries done using surgical robotics out of a total of 313 million surgical procedures,” globally, says Dror Berman, a managing director of Innovation Endeavors.

Berman is an investor in Vicarious Surgical, a new robotics company that plans to not only improve the cost and efficiency of surgical procedures, but enable them to be performed remotely so the best surgeons can be found to perform operations no matter where in the world they are.

“Robotics and automation present multiple opportunities to improve current processes, from providing scientists the opportunity to vastly increase experimental throughput, to allowing people with disabilities to regain use of their limbs,” Berman wrote in a blog post announcing his firm’s initial investment in Vicarious.

The $3.4 billion acquisition of Auris Health by Johnson & Johnson shows just how lucrative the market for new surgical robotics can be.

That company, founded by one of the progenitors of the surgical robotics industry, Fred Moll, is the first to offer serious competition to Intuitive Surgical’s technological advantage — no wonder, considering Dr. Moll also founded Intuitive Surgical.

Last year, the company unveiled its Monarch platform, which takes an endoscopic approach to surgical procedures that is less invasive and more accurate to test for — and treat — lung cancer.

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” Dr. Moll said in an interview at the time. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it in a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40 percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.”

Monarch uses an endoscopy procedure to insert a flexible robot into hard-to-reach places inside the human body. Doctors trained on the system use video game-style controllers to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.