Revolutionary Solutions Welcome to the Metaverse
Like any other industry, the life science industry is also evolving. With the advent of next-gen technologies such as the metaverse, the sector is currently exploring numerous applications for this smart and innovative technology which is expected to have significant advantages for the overall sector.
Welcome to the next level of digital transformation. Welcome to the Metaverse.
Metaverse is real and has the potential to revolutionize numerous sectors like never before. An immersive experience with real-time interaction allows users to explore the virtual world and also benefit from it for various purposes. But what exactly does the ‘Metaverse’ concept mean? And what makes this technology so innovative and unique from other contemporary ones?
To provide an in-depth and comprehensive explanation to this concept, we connected with experts Abhay Shankar Prasad, Lead Industry Transformation, LSHC Strategic Consulting Group and Anup Chakraborty, Senior Research Analyst, Corporate Marketing Research and Advisory at Tata Consultancy Services and this is what they had to say, “While the definition of ‘Metaverse’ is still evolving, in essence it represents the next level of the internet and enables a fundamental shift in the way we interact with digital content and physical reality. Metaverse offers a decentralized digital environment where users can own digital assets and experience persistent virtual worlds that are an extension of the physical world.”
The experts further state that at its most basic form, the metaverse will have three features: a sense of immersion, real-time interactivity and user agency/engagement and ultimately, the full vision of the metaverse will also include interoperability across platforms and devices, concurrency with thousands of people interacting simultaneously and use cases spanning human activity well beyond current predominant activity of gaming.
Metaverse and its associated technologies
Metaverse is a breakthrough technology but it requires the support of other technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) to function smoothly. In simple words, in AR, computer-generated content is superimposed on the real-environment in real time whereas, MR is an interactive experience in which computer-generated content is superimposed on the real-environment in real time. Lastly, with the VR technology, a fully-immersive digital environment is created without any connection with the real world.
Metaverse to transform the life science industry
The metaverse technology has huge potential across diverse sectors and the life science industry is no exception to this. According to Accenture’s Life Sciences Technology Vision 2022 report, life sciences leaders (91 % of medical technology executives and 85 % biopharma executives) expect the metaverse to have a positive impact on their organizations and nearly half of the biopharma executives surveyed believe the metaverse will have a breakthrough or transformational impact on their organizations. This shows the upbeat sentiments of industry players in the market.
Applications of the metaverse in the life science industry
The technology can be used for various applications in the sector such as training, education, and skill-building; transformation of clinical trials; immersive therapeutics; augmented reality in surgical procedures; radiology visualization; extended reality for telemedicine, and immersive digital twins.
Elaborating on this, Prasad and Chakraborty opine, “Training and education can be conducted using the metaverse's immersive capabilities such as 3D visuals, 360 videos, and haptics, which allow for cost-effective, real-life, simultaneous medical staff onboarding, training, and upskilling with higher efficiencies on a larger scale at anytime and anywhere.” They go on to say that the metaverse can transform decentralized clinical trials by breaking the physical and geographical barriers, shifting clinical trials from sites to patients' homes, improving healthy behavior, drug adherence, remote monitoring, and the like.
As mentioned earlier, AR, VR and MR technologies are also combined with the metaverse to offer diverse advantages. “Immersive therapeutics are medical interventions delivered using AR, VR, and MR to treat, manage, and prevent a medical disorder,” mention Prasad and Chakraborty. “Augmented reality in surgical procedures provides an immersive environment where surgeons learn or plan a complex procedure and can practice and prepare the surgery with greater precision and consistency, using technology to simulate each patient's unique
Adding to this, the experts state that radiology visualization is another application of the metaverse, enabling advanced visualization of medical imaging to enhance the value for disease analysis and surgical planning.
“Extended reality for telemedicine provides a potential telehealth solution with the use of extended reality tools. Healthcare workers can provide remote services (diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and care) using augmented reality headsets and wearable devices,” share Prasad and Chakraborty. “Finally, the metaverse can enable immersive digital twins, which is an online healthcare service that uses data from patient records and real-time information from wearables to improve personalized medicine, the performance of healthcare organizations, and the development of medicines and medical devices.”
This technology is still in the making but before it can be fully developed and implemented across sectors, there are various challenges such as network communication, privacy and safety issues and so on that have to be dealt with first. “One of the biggest challenges is the need for ultra-low latency networks,” state Prasad and Chakraborty. “The metaverse requires real-time interaction between users, and any delay in the network could disrupt the experience.”
They add that another challenge is the need for super processing power to handle the vast amounts of data generated in a metaverse. The decentralized nature of the metaverse presents another challenge, as it requires a high degree of interoperability between different systems and platforms.
For this, the experts suggest that the industry needs to collaborate to develop open standards and protocols for the metaverse. This would help ensure interoperability between different systems and platforms, allowing for a seamless experience for users. Additionally, advances in networking and processing technology can help address the latency and processing power challenges.
Expensive supporting technologies such as VR headsets are also a matter of concern as not many will want to invest in these solutions. “There is a need for hardware that can support the metaverse, such as high-end VR headsets and haptic feedback devices. The cost of such hardware can be prohibitive for many users, limiting the potential adoption of the technology,” opine Prasad and Chakraborty. They continue that there are concerns around privacy and security in the metaverse, as users may be sharing sensitive data and interacting with strangers.
To overcome these challenges, the industry needs to collaborate to develop open standards and protocols for the metaverse. “This would help ensure interoperability between different systems and platforms, allowing for a seamless experience for users,” exclaim Prasad and Chakraborty. “Additionally, advances in networking and processing technology can help address the latency and processing power challenges.”
The experts reveal that to address the issue of hardware costs, more affordable options need to be made available to consumers. This could include the development of low-cost VR headsets or haptic feedback devices. Finally, privacy and security concerns can be addressed through the use of encryption and other security measures, as well as through policies and regulations that protect user data.
“While there are many challenges associated with the metaverse, these can be overcome through collaboration, innovation, and policy measures,” mention Prasad and Chakraborty.
Metaverse is still at its nascent stage and the technology could offer so much more once more industry players actively begin to utilize this solution. For the time being, the technology is making heads turn with its unique approach and is also expected to truly transform the life science sector.