The Metaverse Has The Power To Improve Healthcare, And It Has Already Begun
Not everything has to be fun and playful in the Metaverse, especially when its best use cases are those that most need an alternate reality.
Thanks to a few companies that have big marketing machines, the word “Metaverse” has become confused in the hype and controversy. While the current use of the coined word may be new to our ears, the technologies that enforce it have been around for some time now. And they aren’t always used for games or entertainment, although that’s what everyone thinks these days. In fact, one of the most frequent early adopters of these technologies comes from the medical field, which is constantly testing new digital equipment, theories, and experiments to help improve lives. So, as mainstream media, automakers, and social media continue to spotlight new ways to experience different worlds, the metaverse, its concepts, and applications are already creeping into medical and scientific institutions, ready to bring health care to another, augmented reality level.
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If you ask anyone about the metaverse today, they’ll either look at you like you’re crazy because they have no idea what that means, or they’ll look at you like you’re crazy to glorify games and virtual worlds. like Second Life. Through the way it has been portrayed, especially by Meta, formerly Facebook, it has become the stigma that the term and concept will carry for the next few years. In its most basic form, however, the so-called Metaverse is really nothing more than a combination of AI, AR, VR, blockchain and related technologies that attempt to tie the digital and physical world together into one. more consistent. Sometimes even something as simple as a virtual video call is already Metaverse-worthy, with or without the glasses.
This type of visual communication can be essential not only for keeping people close socially while physically apart, but also for keeping the world going even when locked indoors. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to resort to video calling for work and even doctor appointments. Telemedicine has become a thing over the past couple of years, but it’s not going to stop there. With the help of VR and AR apps, medical personnel and healthcare workers can extend their reach, even when the reality is not in front of them.
No, it’s not the scary scenario of performing surgeries remotely (more on that later), but the simple case of training staff or even informing patients through virtual channels. While nothing really is better than the real thing, some stuff, like learning to use machines, doesn’t really require in-person training most of the time. And if charts and graphs are effective in educating patients about various diseases and medical conditions, imagine how a more interactive and realistic demonstration in the metaverse can be more effective.
The phrase may conjure up gruesome imagery, especially scenes from iconic ’80s horror movies, but digital twins are less scary or even less dramatic than they look. Essentially, a digital twin is roughly an exact replica of a physical thing, in this case a person, based on real-world data. This replica can undergo hundreds of simulated changes in minutes or even seconds, which would normally take hundreds of years in real time.
In this application, machine learning and AI take center stage over augmented reality and virtual reality, determining possible outcomes based on changing factors. To put it bluntly, a digital twin could be used as a virtual guinea pig, testing different drugs and doses, different procedures and different treatment options to see which will have the best possible outcome for a patient. All of this can happen in seconds, maybe even in the middle of an operation.
Digital twins can be used on more than humans, of course. The same type of high-speed trial and error can be applied to drug development, virus analysis, the study of animals and plants, and anything that can be solved with certain simulations. Of course, thinking of all this data as just numbers and text would be boring and even painful, so 3D models can go a long way in visualizing and understanding the results of these simulations. Bonus points if you can also see them in the Metaverse!
Thanks to Hollywood, many people probably imagine that surgery in the world of augmented reality and the metaverse involves doctors performing procedures miles away or even in distant countries from the patient. While it can save lives, we don’t really need to go that far to reap the benefits of technology in the operating room. Just being able to see more information than is physically in front of us goes a long way to enhancing our knowledge and understanding, which is really at the heart of augmented reality, without the hype and sensationalism.
Doctors need a lot of imagination when working with patients, not in a fancy way. They might not have a clear view of what they are operating, or they have to work with microscopic materials that would be impossible to see with the naked eye. Although these professionals have been working like them for decades, that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way, especially if technology can help ease the burden.
AR-assisted surgeries have already been performed with great success, but you often don’t hear about them unlike the news on this or that new Metaverse platform. Being able to see where to drill inside a bone or where to put a screw can make procedures faster and safer. Of course, you’ll need better AR glasses to get there, because the current consumer models we have just won’t cut it on the operating table, pun intended.
Designer: Augmedics (via Medicine Johns Hopkins)
Not everything about the metaverse has to be visible, or at least not in its real forms. Of course, the Metaverse can be reduced to 1s and 0s, like any computer program, but most people who experience it will focus on digital artifacts like VR objects. One of the “unseen” technologies associated with the Metaverse is blockchain, and despite misconceptions, it actually has the potential to protect virtual people and data, including medical records.
Designate: Chen Kai Zhang
Blockchain has come under a lot of criticism due to its association with controversial applications such as cryptocurrencies and, more recently, NFTs. Like any other tool, however, it is truly agnostic. Blockchains are more concerned with keeping a record of transactions cryptographically joined together in a chain. Each node in a blockchain network contains a copy of this chain and is constantly updated with new transactions. The decentralized and cryptographic nature of blockchains makes them nearly perfect for protecting data, such as sensitive medical records.
Of course, that’s the ideal scenario, but blockchains are so new to the ears and minds of anyone outside of the IT industry that its applications to things like financial and medical records still blow minds. people, especially legislators. Given the highly sensitive nature of medical data, it may take some time before a stable and reliable blockchain system is accepted and in place.
Designer: Functionland Design
The metaverse of having fun and playing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when done in moderation. In fact, playing games isn’t a bad thing, despite the connotations and biases that even surround the word. People have long learned that games, or more specifically playful activities, can be beneficial for learning and adapting to new things. It can even help people cope with trauma or stress.
Gamification, or the application of game thinking and game mechanics to non-gaming activities, has been around for years now. From leaderboards to levels to high scores, these little things can provide a sense of accomplishment that reinforces the new knowledge we’ve just gained. And since the same technologies that are used to make games also make the Metaverse, the intersection of gamification and the Metaverse is pretty much in the bag.
Nasa, for example, has hired a game developer who specializes in using games to train people, especially doctors, in the diagnosis and treatment of different conditions. The idea is to train astronauts to have enough medical knowledge in case of an emergency, in case it is the doctor on board who needs treatment. These educational tools have all the hallmarks of typical mobile games, except they train you with some serious, life-saving skills rather than just smashing the screen to kill.
The Metaverse may look new, but it’s actually built on old technology. AR and VR have been around for decades, but only now are they becoming more commercially available. Blockchain technologies are finally becoming more understandable even for lawmakers. The psychology of games lurks in plain sight in productivity tools and educational materials. You never thought of them as formal games.
The hype around the Metaverse might make many people’s eyes roll, but all that focus has some benefits. It shines a light on what the Metaverse can actually do, even separated from all the social and entertainment aspects. It sheds light on how these technologies have actually worked behind the scenes in different fields, including medicine, and how the metaverse can be used to not only improve lives but also save them.