THE METAVERSE AND HEALTHCARE – PART 1,
THE EVER-CHANGING INTERNET LANDSCAPE
Written by: Carl Larsen, PMP, MBA
Recently, the term The Metaverse was officially added to the public lexicon. The term is a marriage, or portmanteau, of “meta” meaning transcending or transcendent and universe, e.g., “metaverse” or transcending the universe of the internet. Facebook® CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, recently announced that the company was changing its name to “META,” to reflect the company’s anticipated investment of over $10B in 2021 alone, to expand into The Metaverse the term was officially launched mainstream. As it turns out, The Metaverse finds its origins in the late 1970s and since then, it has been quietly building a presence in the halls of Big Tech.
According to Zuckerburg, the purpose for the move by Facebook is to reflect the variety of interests the company was pursuing. Initially, it seemed that most people outside of Big Tech thought of The Metaverse as another gaming system or platform perhaps due to the deep involvement of such companies as Epic Games’® Fortnite, Roblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons, all with increasingly metaverse-like elements. Fortnite, an Epic Games company, and Roblox, are the only two that reportedly have established a true “footprint” in The Metaverse today.
However, with the announcement by Zuckerburg and the statements by others like Epic Games’ CEO, Tim Sweeny, the realization that is finally hitting home that The Metaverse is far more than a new gaming platform. Embodied in the concepts promoted by these and other thought leaders, The Metaverse represents a completely new ‘culture’ and ‘ideology’ designed to alter our human interaction by replacing sentient beings with digital avatars that operate in a digital space and in real time as the human beings they represent. This forces us to recall the Memorex® tag line: “is it live or is it Memorex?”
In this series of blogs, we will explore what is known about The Metaverse, our view of the pros and cons of its applications, risks and rewards, and the use of existing technologies in The Metaverse. Lastly, as a healthcare company, we will address not only how we began positioning for The Metaverse a few years ago and also how we envision The Metaverse being utilized for health and wellness of the general population, as well as remote or distant patient monitoring and caregiving.
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE
The Metaverse is often explained in current literature as the “next iteration of the internet, supporting decentralized, persistent online 3-D virtual environments.” This decentralized virtual space is expected to be accessible through Virtual Reality headsets, Augmented Reality glasses both this and the later shrinking to glasses that darken the “real world” to display the digital world on the inside of the lense or ‘contact lense(s)’ – something far less cumbersome; smartphones, PCs, and gaming consoles that create a new human experience by combining an individual’s reality (via personal avatar) with the digital world. This may remind you of the movie, Ready Player One (2018), in which people are living their lives through an avatar, or The Matrix (1999), that depicts a dystopian future where humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality created by intelligent machines, the “Matrix,” to distract humans while using their bodies as an energy source. Pioneers of The Metaverse claim that people will ‘evolve’ into their digital avatars and essentially live their lives in the digital world!
As of today, The Metaverse is still more of a concept, though it appears to be evolving quickly and will continue to evolve for some time to come. I use the term ‘implementation’ as opposed to development because there are many hands creating individual implementations with the goal of seamless integration – in a sense, a sort of ‘virtual’ patchwork quilt with each company creating their own “reality space” with internal autonomy in the digital realm, yet having full synchronicity and persistency, e.g., all ‘events’ within The Metaverse occur in ‘real-time’ with permanent effect. Let’s see what some of the thought leaders of this new digital reality have to say:
Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook CEO: “Our overarching goal across all of these (the company’s) initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.” No one person or entity will run the The Metaverse, it will be an “embodied internet.”
Tim Sweeny, Epic Games’ CEO: “The internet is broken and The Metaverse represents an expansive, digital communal space where users can mingle freely with brands and in other ways that permit self-expression and spark joy.”
WHAT TECHNOLOGY CAN BE APPLIED IN THE METAVERSE
According to experts, The Metaverse can be home to nearly any technology or business application. Presently, only two (2) companies are currently in the space, Roblox and Epic Games (Fortnite), both gaming and virtual reality companies. Other companies are evaluating the space, as well as adjustments needed in their business model and operations to move into The Metaverse.
There are also some major technical issues that need to be addressed, both on local “PC’s” as well as a global scale. The “core technology” of The Metaverse is not yet mature, for instance AR, VR, AI, etc. that are necessary gateways or supportive in the digital world. Also, billions in investments in building additional energy capacity to handle the huge increase in computing ‘horsepower’ that will be substantially greater than what is currently being used are needed with lead times of five (5) years or longer.
The Metaverse will likely become a key differentiator between companies that begin making the move immediately to realign to this new ‘global’ digital reality and those that wait to jump in. Its rather easy to see the comparison in this to what we saw with large retail chains that chose to focus on their storefronts and wait for the internet ‘craze’ to prove out or die. For many, as we can see in their balance sheets, they and their shareholders are wishing they had stepped up and caught the early bus.
According to experts, the most probable early-stage access will be through a Virtual Reality environment. This puts many companies back into R&D as even more high-end computers are not capable of handling the calculational speed required for an adequate virtual reality experience. Clearly, a great deal of investment is going to be required in the digital device, computer hardware and software technology as well as the power grid before The Metaverse emerges from the shadows, into the light of day, and is fully mainstream to the public.
OUR HEALTHCARE VIEW
Presently, The Metaverse is wide open, and at OXIO Health, Inc. ® (OXIO®), we are developing our own entry into this new arena from the aspect of patient and community health and wellness. The company is already equipped with some of the strongest intellectual property with our licensed patents for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, along with deep technology and healthcare delivery experience to guide the implementation of these and other patents.
The focus of OXIO is healthcare, specifically patient health and wellness in the Medicare Advantage space. The Metaverse will provide OXIO with an opportunity to not only exercise its formidable intellectual property, but also to advance the state of quality patient health and wellness while reducing the cost of care – two of the core goals of the Company.
In our next blog, we will explore more of the pros and cons of The Metaverse applications, risks and rewards of this new “Techno-Culture,” and the use of existing technologies like AI and Blockchain. Finally, after we have properly set the stage and established a foundation, we will explore how The Metaverse can be used in healthcare and medicine. A glimpse forward to our discussion on the use of The Metaverse in health and wellness, we have long held the view that we must seamlessly integrate medical services and technology to create “Technology-Infused Care™” where the patient IS the data! This machine-to-machine connectivity with the patient through a VR/AR patient interface powered by AI and secured via Blockchain; all of which are patents that OXIO has under its exclusive license.
Whether The Metaverse itself or the technologies that are developed around it, this development will be a potential gamechanger for many areas of healthcare delivery. We envision material improvements in the overall health and wellness across all population demographics, as well as bringing cost under control in many areas. There are big changes on the horizon and OXIO is right in the middle of the burgeoning battle not only with the technology we have developed, but also in the delivery of care to patients.
 Virtual Reality Patent
 Augmented Reality Patent
 Artificial Intelligence Patents (Qx2/Qx3?)
 Blockchain Patents