Pokémon GO may be the latest mad internet-age fad destined to explode and then burn out like a Roman candle within days, weeks or months of ignition — only time will tell.
But at the heart of the explosion of kids chasing animated creatures down city blocks and public parks, there’s a big blue light spinning, signaling something exciting.
It’s a more durable phenomenon that we call “augmented reality,” and it’s driving “exponential medicine” — that will make everybody go “Awww!”
Here’s a sneaky truth about Pokémon GO: In addition to making that old Japanese franchise new again, it gets people up off their butts and out into the world.
It turns them into “trainers,” searching far and wide, from PokéStop to PokéStop (and Poké gyms in between) collecting Poké Balls, Poké eggs, and Poké potions.
That requires a lot of walking around town. So people are exercising and getting to know their communities.
Though the pursuit of the Poké hasn’t gone off without incident, Pokémon GO is, in the main, a positive force for physical and mental well-being.
At the same time, the location-based, GPS-driven game is just scratching the surface of what’s possible with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the future of medical technology.
Before we delve into how they’re revolutionizing experiences for patients and doctors, let’s define AR and VR, with help from Augment.com.
AR “layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality” to make our interactions with them more meaningful.
This is what Google spinoff Niantic Inc. has done with Pokémon GO, which is an app for mobile devices that blends digital components into the real world. Digital components enhance the real world and vice versa, but one can be distinguished from the other.
VR, on the other hand, simulates or recreates a real-life environment or situation, by immersing the user in a “firsthand” experience via stimulation of vision and hearing.
Think Facebook Inc.’s (FB) Oculus Rift device, which creates and enhances video and computer games as well as 3-D movies with a head-mounted display.
In short, as Augment.com explains, “Virtual reality offers a digital recreation of a real-life setting, while augmented reality delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world.”
We’ve discussed “exponential technologies” in this space.
AR and VR, in addition to their entertainment uses, are part of a pretty substantial subset: fast-moving technologies in the reinvention and future of health and medicine.
Singularity Hub calls it “exponential medicine.” We’re already seeing positive results for doctors, medical students and, most importantly, the real people they treat.
We’re already seeing the impact of AR and VR in the real medical world, thanks mainly to the ready availability of Google Glass (news of its death is greatly exaggerated) and low-cost headsets such as the Oculus Rift, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s (SSNLF) Gear VR, and HTC Corp.’s (HTCXF) Vive.
Document technology startup Augmedix is using Google Glass to enable remote note-taking and chart-keeping by physicians during examinations, saving time, boosting efficiency, and allowing doctors to give greater attention to patients.
It’s a big step in the age of electronic health records.
And Brain Power — a company that offers “the first wearable classroom for people with autism” — is using Glass as a “neuro-assistive device” to help kids and adults on the autism spectrum, often marginalized, overcome significant educational challenges.
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Brain Power’s tech gives them the power to teach themselves life skills, using “emotion decoding” and assessing progress numerically.
Another company, Meta, is working on a “next-generation” AR headset for use in medicine as well as manufacturing, communications and media, simulation and education, and 3D modeling.
“More than 1,000 developers and companies” are using Meta already, with huge promise to deliver apps for use by doctors and patients.
As for VR, such capabilities will make invaluable teaching tools. And there are already realized benefits for patients, too.
In April 2016, a company called Medical Realities, founded by Dr. Shafi Ahmed, live-streamed the world’s first VR surgery.
Animation studio Vedavi Medical’s VR Human Anatomy program will give medical students the opportunity to “literally pick apart the human body with your hands and inspect it naturally,” as RoadToVR.com puts it. Thus, as the company notes, students can “overcome the stereotype of the complexity of [learning] the human anatomy.”
As MIT Technology Review reported on July 18, 2016, another startup, AppliedVR, is “building a library of virtual reality content for alleviating pain and anxiety before, during, and after medical procedures.”
A study of patients using AppliedVR’s tech at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles, found that it reduced their acute pain by an average of 24%. And that’s “not too different from what we see from giving narcotics,” according to a Cedars-Sinai research director.
“Small minds,” said French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Blaise Pascal, “are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.”
Exponential medicine combines extraordinary with ordinary — way-out-there technology to solve age-old problems.
Old Things New
“Yeah, but I shoot with this one.”
That’s Jim, the “Waco Kid,” showing Sheriff Bart his fluttering, flying left hand just after demonstrating his “steady as a rock” right hand early in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.
Jim explained the deterioration of his skills:
Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word “draw” in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, “Reach for it, mister!” I spun around… and there I was, face to face with a 6-year-old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass. So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle… and I’ve been there ever since.
He also helped Sheriff Bart understand the nature of his Rock Ridge plight: “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
It’s rude. It’s obnoxious. It’s racist. It’s sexist. It’s offensive.
And Gene Wilder is literally The Best.
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily