A Spanish startup has built a sperm-injecting robot that can be controlled using a PlayStation controller. The team successfully used it to fertilize human eggs, eventually resulting in the birth of two healthy babies
As MIT Technology Review reports, one of the engineers working on the world’s first insemination robot didn’t have all that much experience in the field of fertility medicine — which was where the PlayStation 5 controller came into, well, play.
Using the controller, a student engineer from startup Overture Life [name after descriptor] steered a tiny, mechanized in-vitro fertilization (IVF) needle to deposit single sperm cells into human eggs more than a dozen times.
And the unusual technique appears to have worked. Two baby girls were born as a result of robotic fertilization this spring.
“I was calm,” Eduard Alba, the PlayStation controller-wielding student engineer, told MIT Technology Review.“In that exact moment, I thought, ‘It’s just one more experiment.'”
If the process sounds less futuristic than you were expecting, it’s probably because it is. In essence, it’s a robotic update to traditional IVF, which involves human specialists joining a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in a dish using a special needle under a microscope, which sometimes — but not always — results in fertilization.
Because the current IVF practice is so delicate and labor-intensive, it’s very expensive, with each attempt at pregnancy in the US costing around $20,000, according to the report.
That’s where startups like Overture and several others identified by MIT Technology Review come in. They aim to make the process much cheaper and more accessible by increasingly automating parts of the process.
Thus far, Overture has raised about $37 million, the most out of the lot, with backers including former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
According to the experts, it’s only an incremental step towards fully automating the process…