Technologies like VR, AR and AI that fuelled gaming are now coming to the world of healthcare to create a new era of digital medicine
By Dr Niharica Raizada | February 16, 2022
Many years ago when I was young, I used to watch my sister play a game called ‘The Sims’. It was at its time one of the best life-simulated video games ever sold and it engrossed her completely. She loved conceptualising the people, the home they lived in the city they belonged to, the clothes they wore so on and so forth. She was the architect of the online world she wanted to create.
Since then, the world seems to be following in the footsteps of Will Wright and Jeff Braun from the ideas that started in 1984, about how to create virtual people “Sims” and play with them using big words to keep the stocks afloat such as Metaverse, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), non-fungible token (NFT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain etc. No pun intended.
Healthcare has also been infected by this new trend.
In 2022 AIIMS purchased a new digital surgery technology from ImmersiveTouch, a company working on the beginnings of digital surgery metaverse. This newly purchased technology will teach surgeons how to pre-plan and simulate each patient’s surgery before actually performing it. Sims in medicine, Simming the patient quite literally.
At John’s Hopkins in America some have even gone as far as to operate using augmented reality. On June 8, 2020 and June 10, 2020, two surgeries involving placing six screws in the patients spine and removing a chordoma (a slow growing spine cancer) from the spine were performed while viewing the patient using a headset which allows you see remodelled 3D images of anatomy you are about to operate on. This removes the need for external CT scan viewing and essentially makes the surgeon a superman with an X-ray vision. This might become the mainstay for surgical procedures going forward.
Gaming and medicine have merged together in a way to create a new era of digital medicine like never seen before and the biggest (and the best) testing ground, like always, is India. With the sum of its great computer software engineers (who have stayed in the country), medical doctors (who have fought the international pay lure), and other engineering based nerds (who also couldn't get out), we are about to see a boom in Medical Metaverse changing the landscape of Indian healthcare forever. Are Gujarat and Banglore listening?
The exponential growth of virtually everything becoming virtual – medical consultations, metaverse medical education, mass data enriched metaverse treatment modalities, pre-planned surgeries, online pain management and psychiatric simulation to remove post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) etc, we just hope that this new upward Medical Metaverse trend is not halted by some computer-based Covid.
Imagine a Metaverse lockdown. (Bad joke, I know.)
But on the bright side, people will be able to live a double life quite openly now. One in the Metaverse and one outside it. And everybody likes to keep a face on, so it seems that their wishes are coming true, digitally.
I would like to mention a few upcoming India-based companies to watch out for in the growing field of VR/AR as applied to healthcare: Dr Neeraj Raj’s Immertive, Raman Talwar’s Simulanis, Anuj Mathur’s Q3 Technologies and Vijay Karunakaran’s TNQ InGage. This is by no means an exhaustive list and hopefully more to come.
In the meantime, a note to surgeons, those who believe in touch and feel: hold on tight. The grip is becoming Meta.
The Matrix is real.
Dr. Niharica Raizada is a Medical Scientist and an International Film actor.
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