The first metaversal experiments? Look at what is already happening in medicine


Surgeon Shafi Ahmed poses for a photo of wearing a Microsoft HoloLens headset in his operating room at Royal London Hospital on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

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Metaverse, the next big thing in the digital world, is being advertised as an internet domain where animated avatars of our physical selves will be able to virtually perform all kinds of interactivity, from shopping to games to travel – one day. Wonks says it could be a decade or more before the necessary technologies catch up with the hype.

Currently, however, the healthcare industry is using some essential components that will eventually include the metaverse – virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and artificial intelligence (AI) – as well as software and hardware their applications. For example, medical device companies use MR to assemble surgical tools and plan operating rooms, the World Health Organization (WHO) uses AR and smartphones to train Covid-19 transponders, psychiatrists use VR to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS). among combat soldiers, and medical schools use VR for surgical training.

Facebook, Oculus and Covid

From Facebook – now Meta platform – Purchased Oculus and its VR headset technology in 2014 for $ 2 billion, and a number of healthcare applications were developed. One of the last was collaboration with Facebook Reality Labs and Nexus Studios and the WHO Academy. The organization’s research and development incubator has designed a mobile learning app for healthcare professionals battling Covid-19 around the world. One of the training courses includes AR for smartphone simulation of appropriate techniques and sequences for installing and removing personal protective equipment. With content available in seven languages, the app is built on the needs expressed by 22,000 global health professionals surveyed by the WHO last year.

Oculus technology is used at UConn Health, the University of Connecticut Medical Center in Farmington, Connecticut, to train residents of orthopedic surgery. Teachers have partnered with PrecisionOS, a Canadian medical software company that offers VR training and educational modules in orthopedics. Using Oculus Quest headphones, residents can visualize the performance of various surgical procedures in 3-D, such as inserting a pin into a broken bone. Because the process is done virtually, the system allows students to make mistakes and receive feedback from the faculty that they can include in their next experiment.

While the metaverse is still under construction, “we see a great opportunity to continue the work that Meta is already doing in support of health efforts,” a Meta spokesman said. “As Meta’s experience, applications and services evolve, you can expect the health strategy to play a role, but it’s too early to say how this could intersect with third-party technologies and providers.”

When Microsoft introduced its HoloLens AR smart glasses for commercial development in 2016, including early users Stryker, a medical technology company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2017, he began using the AR device to improve processes for planning operating theaters for hospitals and surgical centers. Because CoRs share different surgical services – from general surgery to orthopedic, cardiac, and others – lighting, equipment, and surgical tools vary by procedure.

Aware of the opportunities that HoloLens 2 offers in developing OR design from 2D to 3D, Stryker engineers can design common ORs using holograms. The MR experience visualizes all people, equipment, and settings without the need for physical objects or people to be present.

Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company based in Warsaw, Indiana, recently unveiled its OptiVu Mixed Reality Solutions platform, which uses HoloLens devices and three applications – one uses MR to make surgical instruments and the other collects and stores data to monitor progress. patient before and after surgery, and the third allows physicians to share MR experiences with patients before surgery.

“We are currently using HoloLens in a pilot mode with remote assistance in the US, EMEA and Australia,” spokesman Zimmer Biomet said. The technology has been used to cover remote cases and training programs, and the company is developing software applications on HoloLens as part of pre- and post-process-focused data solutions, a spokesman said.

Microsoft’s holographic vision of the future

In true applications of AR medical technology, neurosurgeons Johns Hopkins performed the first AR surgeries on living patients in June. During the initial procedure, doctors installed six screws in the patient’s spine during the spinal fusion. Two days later, a separate team of surgeons removed the cancerous tumor from the patient’s spine. Both teams wore headphones made by the Israeli company Augmedics, equipped with a transparent eye screen that projects images of the patient’s internal anatomy, such as bones and other tissues, based on a CT scan. “It’s like having a GPS navigator in front of your eyes,” said Timothy Witham, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Spinal Fusion Laboratory.

At Miller University School of Medicine in Miami, instructors at the Gordon Center for Simulation and Innovation in Medical Education use AR, VR, and MR to train emergency responders who are the first to respond to treat patients with trauma, including those who have had a heart attack. attack or gunshot wound. Students practice rescue heart procedures at Harvey, a life model who realistically simulates almost any heart disease. With VR headphones, students can “see” the basic anatomy graphically depicted on Harvey.

“In the digital environment, we are not bound by physical objects,” said Barry Issenberg, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Gordon Center. Before developing a virtual technology curriculum, he said students had to be physically on site and train on actual trauma patients. “We can now ensure that all students have the same virtual experience, regardless of their geographical location.”

Since its founding in 1999, the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technology (ICT) has developed VR, AI, and other technologies to address a variety of health and mental health conditions. “When I first got involved, technology was the Stone Age,” said Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a psychologist and director of medical virtual reality at ICT, and recalled his fix with the Apple IIe and Game Boy handheld console. Today he uses VR and AR headphones from Oculus, HP and Magic Leap.

Rizzo helped create a VR exposure therapy called Bravemind, designed to ease PTSD, especially among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. During exposure therapy, the patient, led by a trained therapist, confronts his memories of the trauma with simulations of his experiences. If you wear headphones, the patient can be immersed in several different virtual scenarios, including Middle Eastern themed urban and desert road environments.

“Patients use the keyboard to simulate people, rebels, explosions, even smells and vibrations,” Rizzo said. And instead of relying solely on presenting a particular scenario, the patient can experience it in a safe, virtual world as an alternative to traditional conversation therapy. Evidence-based Bravemind therapy is now available in more than a dozen Veterans Administration hospitals, where it has been shown to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms. Additional randomized controlled trials are ongoing.

As Big Tech continues to build metaverses, along with software and hardware companies, academia and other R&D partners, the healthcare industry remains a real proving ground. “While the metaverse is still in its infancy, it has enormous potential to transform and improve healthcare,” wrote Paulo Pinheiro, Cambridge-based software manager, UK-based Sagentia Innovation, on the consulting firm’s website. “It will be fascinating to follow the development of the situation.”

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