Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'

KE-BOT is a game-changer in hair transplantation technology.
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An assistant at ASMED looking at KE-BOT.
At KE-BOT room, a clinic assistant from ASMED is ready for the patients.

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French citizen Nathan Dominguez, 25, a student at Baruch College in New York, and his elder brother Emmanuel Dominguez, 28, also a student in the United States, are visiting Turkey for the first time.

This is not a tourist trip, though. The brothers are worried about premature balding and are here to rejuvenate their looks.

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Nathan Dominguez had his new hair transplanted earlier today. And his brother is about to get off the surgical bed.

“I tried clinics in France and the U.S., but the robotic technology for hair [in Turkey] is beyond my expectations. It's mind-boggling, straight out of a sci-fi movie,” Dominguez tells Interesting Engineering at a hair transplantation clinic on the Asian side of Istanbul, the financial capital of the country.

Dominguez has tried clinics in the U.S. and France, but he didn’t “feel safe” getting his expensive hair treatment done in the technologically-sophisticated countries.

“When it comes to your looks, you have to be picky,” he grins.

Dominguez isn’t the only one smiling at the posh Beverly Hills-style ASMED Surgical Medical Center. There are others here who have their reasons to be happy.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
A patient at ASMED clinic getting prepped for KE-Photo analysis.

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“That's my girlfriend. And it's possible because of the new hair,” claims Jack, who wanted to be identified with his first name only.

An engineer who has traveled from the U.K. to get a hair transplant done for the second time, Jack continues: “I wouldn't approach a girl that beautiful if I didn’t have this hair.” He takes his phone out of his pocket and shows a picture of his new girlfriend.

So what technology are we talking about? Let’s dip in.

Technological tales of Dr. Koray Erdogan

At ASMED, a band of doctors and assistants can be seen smiling in purple aprons. And among them is Dr. Koray Erdogan, a physician, and pioneer in the multi-billion dollar hair transplant industry.

No, he isn't related to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is the president of the World F.U.E. Institute — an organization focused on education, research, and instruction in the field of F.U.E. hair restoration surgery. Follicular unit extraction (or F.U.E.) is one of two primary methods of obtaining hair follicles for hair transplantation.

A member of the European Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (E.S.H.R.S.), Dr. Erdogan is to hair transplant a little like what Elon Musk is to Tesla — minus the billions, but with a somewhat similar lifestyle.

The doctor has developed several technological advancements in hair transplantation that are now recognized worldwide.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
Dr. Erdogan marking patients head a process involved in the treatment.

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Initially trained as a thoracic (chest) surgeon, Dr. Erdogan shifted his career to the hair transplantation industry in 2001, when he founded ASMED.

“I was spending a lot of time in cancer surgeries, but the tumors would often metastasize (spread), and the sad patients would return for the treatment again. And that’s when I met my life partner. She made me change my profession,” says Dr. Erdogan.

In the hair transplant industry, Dr. Erdogan was not faced with any dying patients. “I realized nobody is dying, no metastasis. All I see is excited faces, with fresh looks,” he laughs.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
ASMED clinic.

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By 2004, he had already developed a unique F.U.E. methodology known as the “sequential technique,” which has since been recommended in the industry as a model for hair weaving.

“Due to the surgical methods and tools he has created, Dr. Erdogan is an outstanding figure in hair transplantation, known all around the world as a pioneer,” says Eren Basagan, Dr. Erdogan's friend for 42 years and now a communications officer at his clinic.

Basagan added that “Since the establishment of the ASMED clinic, Dr. Erdogan has committed himself totally to hair transplantation. He lives in A.S.M.E.D. 24/7; he is ASMED.”

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
Dr. Koray Erdogan can be seen inspecting a patients hair in his office.

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KE-BOT: A breakthrough innovation

Dr. Erdogan is responsible for numerous technological advancements. KE-BOT, a game-changing innovation in hair transplantation, is one of the most recent. He conceptualized and designed the technology in collaboration with Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council.

It consists of a sophisticated, robotic 360-degree circular scanning system that evaluates all aspects of hair transplantation using high-definition photography, including 3-D scalp modeling, and data collection from all angles.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
A closer look at AI operated KE-BOT technology.

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This artificial intelligence (A.I.)-powered robot uses an optical system to determine the density and quantity of the patient's hair, both in the donor and recipient areas of the head, allowing each patient's needs to be tailored individually.

“Earlier, I was doing all these calculations using a manual system. But that takes a lot of time. And it's not possible to calculate the thickness of every hair in the donor area”, Dr. Erodgan says.

“So, we need something that would do all these intricate calculations in an optical way, and that is when I decided to make these machines.”

The robotic technology computes a coverage value that affects both the donor and recipient areas to ensure adequate homogenization and density without overharvesting, while also accounting for average hair loss with aging.

Its optical system assists surgeons in determining the number of extracted and grafted hair follicles, allowing them to plan the surgery ahead of time.

“In France and the U.S., they have few premeditated graphs to incorporate on all types of heads, irrespective of size and shape. I don’t appreciate that,” Nathan Dominguez interjects.

“In Turkey, every experience is personalized according to your head shape. It’s like the royal treatment you would get in Beverly Hills,” his brother, Emmanuel Dominguez, who just got out of the surgery, chips in.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
Nathan and Emmanuel Dominguez, brothers, pose for a photo after surgery.

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The key advantage of this innovation is the complete transparency of the hair transplantation procedure for the patients who are interested in understanding the procedure before the surgery.

“The technology helps us to emulate our surgery quality and tells patients exactly how many grafts would be extracted and transplanted per square centimeter,” says Dr. Erdogan.

“If you calculate it manually, it may take a week, but this robotic scanning system does it in under seven minutes,” Dr. Erdogan says.

To top it off, Dr. Erdogan also developed a KE-BOT application for smartphones that uses the same server as the KE-BOT and is connected to the ASMED clinic, making it possible for hair surgeons all around the world to perform their hair analysis in seconds.

The application is already used by more than 7,000 physicians and clinics worldwide and allows them to provide comprehensive details for every surgery.

“The application is free for all professionals. For example, a photo taken in the U.S. or China is relayed back to the server here, and the doctors get unique information on each patient,” says Dr. Erdogan.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
ASMED's KE-Photo system allows doctors to inspect and cover all sides of the head in a single click.

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Erdogan has also invented other tools, such as the unique surgical punches called the Koray Erdogan Embedding Placer (KEEP), which replaces the need to place grafts into pre-made incisions using forceps.

According to the clinic, the K.E.E.P. reduces the potential for graft curving and damage to the scalp that can occur with the use of pre-made incisions.

This is due to “the natural predisposition of pre-made incisions to become tighter and less visible while awaiting placement.” This is also because of “the probing that subsequently occurs while determining the proper direction of the incision for implantation with graft-loaded forceps.”

The clinic claims that the tool has already been exported to more than 30 countries.

And Dr. Erdogan's patients certainly seem to be appreciative of this expertise. “He is a pioneer,” says Jack when asked how he feels about Dr. Erdogan's techniques.

“He could have been sitting on the beach enjoying his life, but he's still here, improving every time and improving the lives of others.”

Turkey, a Mecca for hair transplantation

Turkey is a popular place for hair transplantation surgery not only because of technological advances like those developed by Dr. Erdogan, but it is also around 50–70 percent cheaper to have transplants done here than in European or American clinics.

The country is also known for its long history of hair loss research and the number of clinics performing the procedure, with over 500 hair transplant clinics and hospitals established in Istanbul alone. In fact, Turkey is rapidly becoming a global training center for hair transplantation and other aesthetic treatments.

A normal transplant in Turkey can cost around $1,500 and $2,000, which can also include travel and accommodation. A similar operation may range between $4,000 and $15,000 in Europe or the US.

Lower cost and a history of successful procedures have led to Turkey's emergence as one of the world's leading hair transplantation destinations, with 550,000 patients from more than 100 countries visiting the country in the first half of this year alone.

The hair transplantation industry has also contributed approximately $2 billion to the country's health tourism, and this is expected to grow in the future.

Turkey’s hair transplant robot is 'straight out of a sci-fi movie'
Dr. Erdogan and Jack laughing after his successful surgery.

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“Earlier, I would be mostly in a hat. Now, I look handsome. Yeah! Younger. I am very happy to have spent the money,” says Jack, ready to get some rest after the surgery.