Forecast 2022: AR, VR on the verge of sending medical technology to the next dimension
Virtual reality headsets have been around for years, but for much of their history they have been largely confined to the realm of novelty accessories for high-tech gamers.
While virtual reality and its even more immersive sibling, augmented reality, have slowly infiltrated the field of medicine in recent years, it wasn’t until 2021 that the dam broke and unleashed a flood. of AR and VR in the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has given new value to virtualization, and last year marked a turning point with many of these wacky technologies finally becoming a reality, supported by a deluge of venture capital funds and regulatory green lights .
If 2021 was the year that immersive technologies finally found their way into medical technologies, it stands to reason that 2022, in turn, will be the year that patients, providers and technology developers finally start to learn. enjoy the benefits of AR and VR.
The odds are good: A recent market research report estimated that between 2021 and 2026, the virtual reality in healthcare market will grow by almost 35% per year, reaching over $ 40 billion dollars. ‘here the end of this period. That’s a far cry from the comparatively meager $ 2.7 billion space virtual reality has carved out for itself in medicine in 2020.
Reality test: preparing the ground for the takeover of immersive technology
Ophthalmology is one of the fields of medical technology already experiencing major changes induced by virtual reality and augmented reality. Heru, a derivative of the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, has spent the year riding this wave. After racking up $ 30 million in VC funding in May, it launched its re: Vive VR-based vision testing platform in August and had already started rolling out the second generation of the platform in November.
The updated platform, accessible through commercially available headsets like those from Microsoft and Magic Leap, performs six tests, looking for color blindness, contrast sensitivity, visual field impairments and more. Even more tests are already underway, including those that use AR technology to identify exact gaps in a patient’s field of vision, enabling hyper-personalized vision correction.
RELATED: Heru Adds 3 More Diagnostics to VR Headset-Based Vision Testing Platform
Luminopia, meanwhile, got de novo pre-market approval from the FDA in October for its own vision-centric tool. Luminopia One offers prescription-only treatment for lazy eyes in children, in the form of TV shows and movies viewed with a VR headset for one hour every day. The commercial deployment of digital therapeutics is expected to begin by the second quarter of 2022.
Elsewhere in the digital therapy arena, AppliedVR made history in November with the FDA’s first-ever deal for a virtual reality device to treat lower back pain. EaseVRx guides patients through games, lessons, and exercise supported by cognitive behavioral therapy and other practices to help relieve their chronic pain in short solo sessions over an eight-week period.
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But perhaps even more ripe for the revolution through VR and AR is the field of robotic surgery. Both Activ Surgical and Beyeonics have won back-to-back multi-million dollar funding rounds this year for their immersive technology to guide surgeons through procedures.
Activ has secured $ 45 million in Series B funding for its suite of AR overlays that add real-time analytics and advice to surgical monitors, while Beyeonics has said it will allocate its $ 36 million to the continued development of its head-mounted monitor, which uses AR and artificial intelligence to fully immerse surgeons in the flow of a microscopic camera.
There’s also Pixee Medical, which received a nod from the FDA in April for its Knee + system, complete with RA glasses. While wearing the glasses during knee replacement surgery, a surgeon can see real-time measurements of joint angles and planned incisions in his field of view, meaning he can move quickly and efficiently throughout. of the procedure without having to repeatedly familiarize themselves with the surgical site each time they look away to check a separate monitor.
Outside of the operating room, NuVasive is now turning to virtual reality to provide high-tech and easily accessible surgical training. It hired orthopedic surgery developer VR PrecisionOS in October to develop an international training program for its X360 minimally invasive spinal surgery system. By integrating its training module into a VR headset in 20 languages, NuVasive will be able to familiarize more surgeons, academics and vendors around the world with its system, without the need for corpses.
Turning futuristic technology into (virtual) reality in 2022
These companies and others have paved the way for virtual and augmented reality technologies to take center stage in 2022, and even more have already started to explain exactly how they will do it in the coming year.
The NuVasive PrecisionOS employee, for his part, will begin deploying his new FDA-approved InVisionOS surgical planning system earlier this year. The system works with a hospital’s existing imaging database to turn CT scans into 3D images, then sends them to a VR headset, where surgeons can explore the results to plot a procedure.
The new year could also usher in an FDA OK for Altoida, which was awarded breakthrough device status from the agency in August for its suite of AR-powered tests for Alzheimer’s disease, bringing immersive diagnosis significantly closer to ‘widespread use. Another new product combining AR and VR could also be on the horizon, if Medtronic’s work with developer VR Surgical Theater proves successful in its mission to translate flight simulator technology into real-time brain surgery advice. .
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Meanwhile, in a year-long initiative launched this summer, AppliedVR and Curebase announced that they will be putting their heads (and virtual reality expertise) together to assess the use of a 3D headset and goggles. to conduct clinical trials in the comfort of participants’ homes.
And there’s plenty more to come from innovators like those at Icahn’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which unveiled the first-of-its-kind department in AI and human health in October, with a dedicated space to study the AR and VR in medicine, adding yet another to the long list of signs that immersive technology is taking hold in healthcare for the long term, through 2022 and beyond.