The first metaverse experiment?See what’s going on in medicine

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Surgeon Shafi Ahmed took a photo with a Microsoft HoloLens headset in the operating room of the Royal London Hospital on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The virtual world, the next big thing in the digital world, is touted as the Internet field, where our animated avatars will be able to interact virtually, from shopping to games to travel-one day. Wonks said it may take a decade or more for the necessary technology to catch up with the hype.

However, currently, the healthcare industry is using some of the basic components that will ultimately constitute the meta-universe—virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and artificial intelligence (AI)—as and for their applications The software and hardware powered by the program. For example, medical device companies are using MR to assemble surgical tools and design operating rooms, the World Health Organization (WHO) is using AR and smartphones to train Covid-19 responders, and psychiatrists are using VR to treat post-traumatic stress (PTS) ) Among combat soldiers, the medical school is using VR for surgical training.

Facebook, Oculus and Covid

Since Facebook (now Meta Platforms) acquired Oculus and its VR headset technology for US$2 billion in 2014, many healthcare applications have been developed. One of the latest collaborations is with Facebook Reality Labs and Nexus Studios and WHO Academy. The organization’s research and development incubator has designed a mobile learning app for health workers fighting Covid-19 around the world. One of the training courses involved the correct technique and sequence of AR simulating the wearing and removal of personal protective equipment on a smartphone. The app provides content in seven languages ​​and is built around the needs expressed by 22,000 global health workers surveyed by the World Health Organization last year.

UConn Health, a medical center at the University of Connecticut in Farmington, Connecticut, uses Oculus technology to train plastic surgery residents. Educators cooperate with Canadian medical software company PrecisionOS to provide orthopedics VR training and education modules. Wearing an Oculus Quest headset, residents can visually perform a series of surgical operations in 3-D, such as putting a pin into a broken bone. Since the program is executed virtually, the system allows students to make mistakes and get feedback from faculty and staff for the next attempt.

At the same time, as Metaverse is still under construction, “we see an excellent opportunity to continue Meta’s work in supporting health,” a Meta spokesperson said. “With the development of Meta’s experience, applications and services, you can expect health strategies to work, but it is too early to say how this will intersect with third-party technologies and vendors.”

When Microsoft launched its HoloLens AR smart glasses for commercial development in 2016, early adopters included Stryker, a medical technology company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2017, it began to use AR equipment to improve the design process of operating rooms in hospitals and surgical centers. Since the operating room is shared by different surgical services—from general surgery to orthopedics, heart, etc.—the lighting, equipment, and surgical tools vary from surgery to surgery.

Recognizing the opportunities HoloLens 2 offers in evolving operating room design from 2D to 3D, Stryker engineers were able to use holograms to design shared operating rooms. The MR experience can visualize all personnel, equipment, and settings without the need for physical objects or personnel to be present.

Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company based in Warsaw, Indiana, recently launched its OptiVu mixed reality solution platform, which uses HoloLens devices and three applications-one uses MR to make surgical tools, and the other collects and stores data to Follow the patient’s progress. After surgery, the third allows clinicians to share MR experience with patients before surgery.

“We are currently using HoloLens on a pilot basis in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Australia, and provide remote assistance,” said a Zimmer Biomet spokesperson. The spokesperson said that the technology has been used in remote case coverage and training programs, and the company is developing software applications on HoloLens as part of a solution that focuses on data before and after surgery.

Microsoft’s holographic vision for the future

In March, Microsoft demonstrated Mesh, an MR platform supported by Azure cloud services, which allows people in different physical locations to join a 3D holographic experience on various devices, including HoloLens 2, a series of VR headsets, smartphones, and tablets Computers and personal computers. In a blog post, the company imagined the avatars of medical students, studying human anatomy, gathering around a holographic model, peeling off the muscles, and seeing what’s underneath.

Microsoft saw many opportunities for its MR technology and signed a $20 billion contract with the US military in March for soldiers to use.

In the practical application of AR medical technology, neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins University performed the first AR operation in the institution’s history on living patients in June. During the initial surgery, the doctor placed six screws in the patient’s spine during spinal fusion. Two days later, a separate team of surgeons removed a cancerous tumor from the patient’s spine. Both teams are wearing a headset made by the Israeli company Augmedics, which is equipped with a see-through eye display that can project images of the patient’s internal anatomy (such as bones and other tissues) based on CT scans. “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 the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, lecturers at the Gordon Medical Education Simulation and Innovation Center use AR, VR, and MR to train first responders to treat trauma patients, including strokes, heart attacks, or gunshot wounds. Students practice life-saving heart surgery on Harvey. Harvey is a lifelike human body model that can simulate almost any heart disease. Wearing a VR headset, students can “see” the underlying anatomical structure graphically displayed on Harvey.

“In the digital environment, we are not bound by physical objects,” said Barry Isenberg, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Gordon Center. He said that before developing virtual technology courses, students must go to the scene in person and receive training for actual trauma patients. “Now we can guarantee that all learners have the same virtual experience, no matter where they are.”

Since its establishment in 1999, the Innovative Technology Institute (ICT) of the University of Southern California has developed VR, AI, and other technologies to address various medical and mental health conditions. “When I first participated, this technology was the Stone Age,” said Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a psychologist and director of ICT medical virtual reality, recalling his fiddling with Apple IIe and Game Boy handheld game consoles. Today, he uses VR and AR headsets from Oculus, HP and Magic Leap.

Rizzo helped create a VR exposure therapy called Bravemind designed to alleviate PTS, especially among veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. During exposure therapy, the patient faces his or her traumatic memories by simulating their experiences under the guidance of a well-trained therapist. Wearing headphones, patients can be immersed in several different virtual scenes, including Middle Eastern themed cities and desert road environments.

“Patients use keyboards to simulate people, insurgents, explosions, and even smells and vibrations,” Rizzo said. Patients can experience it in a safe virtual world instead of relying solely on imagining specific scenes as an alternative to traditional talk therapy. Evidence-based Bravemind therapy is now available in more than a dozen Veterans Administration hospitals, where it has been shown to significantly reduce PTS symptoms. Other randomized controlled studies are ongoing.

As large technology companies continue to build the meta-universe together with software and hardware companies, academia, and other R&D partners, the healthcare industry remains a proving ground in real life. “Although Metaverse is still in its infancy, it has huge potential for the transformation and improvement of healthcare,” Paulo Pinheiro, head of software at Sagentia Innovation, based in Cambridge, UK, said on the consulting company’s website Write. “It will be interesting to watch the situation develop.”

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