A new age for the metaverse emerges in paediatric care
- Posted on August 16, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
I grew up when computers were a new thing, a new frontier, and something to be held in awe and to be treated with caution. While I began programming at an early age, the interconnectivity was a late thing as we had dial-up modems that blocked the landline, which was the exclusive mode of communication in an era before mobile/cell phones.
But even then, we had the beginnings of online communities and online multiplayer role games. One of my earliest memories is an action requiring two people to access a treasure chest within a cave. One person had to hold the door open while the other retrieved it. The primitive built-in artificial intelligence could be trusted to hold the door open, but the treasure wasn’t actually real. I recall my human partner delighting in letting the door shut me in “just because.”
I mention this because in the online world we tend to view people as inanimate objects or animated players. We complicate this by agents such as chatbots presented as NPCs (non-player characters) that blur the Turing line. But this challenge is also key to how and why immersive technologies will succeed.
While some people may still yearn for a human voice, information technology offers the promise of near-perfect scalability. For example, Amazon would most likely not exist if we still needed a person to process each order. Whatever your opinion of such companies, they have enabled a new convenience in our lives and promise to continue to evolve through ”virtual try before you buy” operating models.
The metaverse: Why now?
Over the years, immersive technologies, including augmented and virtual reality, have increased, and we have all sorts of additional audio-visual and haptic devices to further engage in this alternative world. There are also foundational technologies, such as blockchain and virtual reality headsets, that have now reached a maturity that enables us to take the first formative steps in making this something more and available to the masses.
This decade represents the real coming of age of what we now term the metaverse. At Avanade we view the metaverse in a way that focuses on the greatest value. The metaverse interweaves physical places and digital spaces, enabling us to collaborate and exchange value through shared interactions and experiences.
The definition of the metaverse may seem like a far-reaching concept with a multitude of applications in almost every sector, so let me begin by focusing on healthcare and specifically on paediatric care for this first blog on the topic.
Growing up without dial-up modems
I am now a doctor with a family of my own. My children know nothing about dial-up modems or land lines. Today’s children in general are the world’s first true cyborgs; augmented by instant access to the world’s knowledge through the internet and able to communicate with anyone around the globe through a multitude of mediums. This is often through the device that we still call a phone.
For them, the phone is the window through which they communicate with their friends and hang out in virtual spaces. It’s also the first thing they turn to when they have a question or need. It’s only sensible then, that we explore the metaverse using the tools children grew up with to get them help and support in their time of need.
Helping children be less afraid in the hospital
Here at Avanade, we have engaged with a large children’s hospital to support them in developing a wide variety of applications to help children while they are unwell. Often this is the first time away from home, and a large ward can be scary if they’re used to having their own room. In these days of COVID, parents are often not permitted to stay with their children, and unfortunately even when permitted, it’s usually restricted to one parent alone.
Having a support network of their immediate and extended family can be further expanded by including other children in similar situations who can play and support each other through virtual interactions and shared experiences.
Multiple paediatric use cases
Then there are all the procedures and technology surrounding medical care such as MRI machines. Even things such as having an X-ray taken or a simple swab can cause apprehension due to the unknown aspects, especially in younger patients.
Where typically we may need to use mild sedatives to calm a child sufficiently to do simple procedures, the metaverse offers both desensitisation through education and distraction in the form of soothing environments. We envision a scenario where we can turn a regular blood draw and a scary needle into a gamification distraction and even a competition with other children to remove the negative connotation and stigmatism of the sick role.
Becoming metaverse ready
Moving forward, many health and life sciences organizations will struggle to become metaverse ready. They will find themselves on the front lines of establishing trust and safety and defining the human experience without the tools and resources needed to deliver the greatest value.
Avanade has the expertise across the breadth of Microsoft technologies and experience in health and life sciences to help create people-first experiences and drive value throughout the organization. We’ll help you evaluate use cases to improve the care experience, increase efficiencies and gain new insights.