The first half of 2020 has been one of tremendous growth and innovation in the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality space. Healthcare was already one of the most promising landscapes for the exponential technologies, but the pandemic that has slowed or stopped so many other sectors have accelerated AR and VR adoption within hospitals and the larger healthcare ecosystem.
One of the biggest trends in digital transformation within the healthcare sector along with Artificial intelligence is the use of virtual reality and augmented reality in treating patients.
Here, we’ll look at some of the biggest AR and VR trends that have developed in this chaotic atmosphere.
Remote Education and Training
Remote education had existed long before 2020 and long before VR and AR technologies. However, the increasing quality and decreasing cost of these experiences is increasing their demand – and their availability.
VR Education platform Victory XR recently launched a virtual campus where users can access virtual chemistry and anatomy labs as well as collaborate and learn together in real-time. Platforms like Fundamental Surgery are expanding training to medical school students that are unable to attend conventional surgery training and experience.
Educational VR platform GIGXR has also created an entire experience dedicated to teaching healthcare providers how to recognize and treat Covid-19 patients.
“Soft skills training” is a particular area of interest in VR training. “Soft skills” refers to skills that can’t be learned from a book – like person-to-person interaction. A recent PwC report found that virtual soft skills training is more effective and engaging than either in-class instruction or more conventional distanced learning. Uptale is a France based start-up that provides immersive learning platform that is designed for businesses to create, share and track training modules in 360° and Virtual Reality. The company recently partnered with UEFA Champions League to prepare volunteers before the event to reduce their on-site training time and maximize their productivity on game day. The company has also implemented its solution in Accor Hotels, wherein it trains employees on customer relationship values.
Veative Labs is a US-based start-up that has created a soft skills based VR solution for the retail sector. The solution requires users to work through various scenarios and the results are accessed through a dashboard by relevant stakeholders.
Remote Collaboration and Telehealth
Telehealth has been around for a while but VR is bringing it up to speed. In tele-health applications, patients are able to connect with healthcare providers and even engage in physical therapy through virtual reality.
There has been an increased in Remote collaboration too. Using remote collaboration applications, doctors are able to provide professional support to one another in real-time.
VR-based telehealth solutions provider XRHealth launched a new suite of applications early in Q1 and partnered with VR headset manufacturer Pico to provide headsets with the suite pre-loaded near the end of Q1. The US-based start-up combines medical applications with data analytics and remote monitoring, providing a comprehensive solution for clinicians and patients and pharma companies.
Reducing Barriers to Entry
Throughout Q1 and early in Q2, AR and VR headset manufacturers and distributors saw a combination of market rushes and supply chain disturbances that meant that many weren’t reaching demand. Further, more advanced VR experiences require shared facilities and hardware.
VR education platform Fundamental Surgery relied on a large-scale, hyper-realistic experience that required those facilities. However, in April, the London-based company announced solutions that worked on personal devices as well as a mobile-phone based experience training healthcare workers on ventilators.
Even when companies are using headset-supported VR, they’re often finding that more complex platforms aren’t always the right solution, opting for 3 Degrees-of-Freedom hardware and experiences rather than more immersive 6DoF experiences because of the ease of use and lower cost of implementation.
Concerns over Covid aren’t only resulting in decreased barriers to entry for individual experiences. Hardware manufacturers are taking notice too. Headsets announced in Q1 and Q2 including HP’s Reverb G2 VR headset prioritize easy-to-clean materials and parts.
Hardware disinfectant products like Cleanbox are also seeing increased interest from experience providers that do require headset sharing. VRCover, a company that makes sanitary and easy-to-clean removable coverings for XR headsets, also reported increased demand and supply chain interruptions early in Q1.
Healthcare is one of the most ambitious and promising sectors of XR. However, it remains just one sector within the larger market. And, like all sectors, it influences and is influenced by others.
Haptics technology is an integral part of some advanced medical applications including some of those discussed above. Similarly, advancements in fields like engineering and security have promising applications in healthcare. For example, the Rokid Glass 2 AR-enabled smart glasses include temperature reading that works from feet away.
The first half of 2020 posed significant setbacks to the production of XR hardware solutions including for the healthcare sector. However, it also saw increased interest and adoption of software solutions.
As XR healthcare hardware producers continue to recover into the second half of 2020, they will do so with altered selling points based on what they learned since January.