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Virtual reality, artificial intelligence enable better access to diagnostics and medical education

People play immersive games with virtual reality sensory headsets inside Lucy Bus. (Looxid Laboratories)

South Korea’s healthcare sector is breaking down physical barriers with the rise of the metaverse and its core technologies – virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has limited most offline interactions over the past two years, metaverse technologies that ultimately envision a shared virtual space where people can interact with each other and perform realistic activities and tasks have been put forward.

Unlike the traditional healthcare industry that requires physical contact or human-to-human exchange, healthcare startups inspired by cutting-edge technologies are expanding diagnostic fields.

Local startup Looxid Labs has developed Lucy, a medical assessment and training system that uses AI and virtual reality technologies to detect early signs of cognitive disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Since October, the company has operated a mobile diagnostic center called Lucy Bus that can visit elderly people to test their cognitive abilities. By using a sensory VR headset to play immersive cognitive games, the headset can measure their working memory, attention level, and spatial perception by examining their behavioral and neurophysiological responses such as brain waves.

The VR sensory headset also offers a training mode that can help prevent cognitive impairment in the elderly.

Lucy Bus (Looxid Laboratories)

“Lucy is mainly used for people aged 50 or over. Lucy Bus provides tour services for senior citizens who reside in the countryside and have little access to public transportation,” said an official from Looxid Labs.

According to the official, Lucy headsets are in use at 46 locations in Seoul and Busan, most of which are local dementia centers and senior welfare centers. In January, Lucy received the Health and Wellness Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Metaverse technologies are also used for the training of medical personnel.

Newbase, a company specializing in the development of medical metaverse simulation platforms, has devised programs to provide more real-world training opportunities for those wishing to work in the medical field.

Using a VR sensory headset and a mobile app, the company offers simulations such as checking patients’ Glasgow Coma Scale – a clinical scale used to measure a patient’s level of consciousness. person – and learning about case triage, the process of determining which patients receive treatment and care services based on their clinical condition.

Screenshot of Newbase NurseBase virtual medical training platform (Newbase)

Newbase’s other programs give budding medical personnel the opportunity to practice giving injections, managing hygiene and learning how to put on and take off protective equipment correctly.

According to the company, simulation offers more real training opportunities as it provides instant feedback based on decisions made by players. Users don’t have to worry about real patient safety or privacy issues during the trials and the simulations also reduce the amount of single-use medical resources, he added.

The medical simulation platforms have been used at 405 institutions across the country, including Seoul Women’s College of Nursing and National Sunchon University, the company said. Newbase announced last week that it had secured 4 billion won ($3.18 million) in a Series A investment.

In addition to medical training, metaverse technologies can also be used to teach the general public about common, but crucial, medical procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR.

Tetra Signum offers CPR training using artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies with its device called Meta CPR 1.0, a digital kiosk connected to a CPR manikin and a head-mounted display that the user wears. According to the company, the program can increase the effectiveness of CPR lessons because it gives accurate assessment and data analysis of how CPR is performed.

A Tetra Signum official told the Korea Herald that the company was looking to break into overseas markets because it had conducted clinical trials with medical institutes in the UK and the US. The company is also developing a CPR platform for young children as well as a mass CPR training solution, according to the official.

Student firefighters practice CPR with mannequins using virtual reality technology at the National Fire Service Academy. (Tetra Signum)

“The current Meta CPR 1.0 is intended to perform CPR on adults. But other countries have shown interest in teaching young couples how to properly perform CPR for children. South Korean police and fire authorities asked for ways to train more trainees with our solution, as the current headset only allows one-to-one training,” he said.

The manager added that the company aims to provide a CPR solution that does not require a kiosk or head-mounted display so it can deliver the training wherever and whenever.

The metaverse technologies used to expand the possibilities of the healthcare sector are not limited to diagnostics and medical education, however, according to Choi Jae-yong, president of the Korea Metaverse Institute.

“Home training can be done through the metaverse. You could run on a treadmill at home and train with friends in a shared virtual space using VR devices. It would produce better exercise effects. The metaverse and healthcare industries can only benefit from each other,” Choi said.

The government announced in January that it would invest a total of 45 billion won to support 300 startups in the remote industry, including the metaverse sector. In particular, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said it would focus on companies with medical training and metaverse clinical platforms, while the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said that would support developers of non-contact medical devices and in vitro diagnostics. Medical equipement.

By Kan Hyeong-woo ([email protected])