The metaverse in current digital medicine

The metaverse in current digital medicine

The metaverse has entered people's horizons through virtual reality, digital twinning, the Internet of Things, blockchain technology, etc. However, metaverse medical platforms incorporating advanced AI technologies, such as industrial-scale digital twins, may address these issues. In this article, we discuss the application prospect of these technologies in digital medicine and the future of the medical metaverse. Along with the popularization of intelligent terminals, the improvement of 5G, blockchain, and other infrastructures, the maturity of virtual reality, augmented reality (VR/AR), and other virtualization technologies, the natural world and the virtual world are becoming integrated. This article will discuss the application of these digital technologies in healthcare that may help address the challenges and the future of the medical metaverse. The development of the medical metaverse (meta-medicine) will go through four stages. With the help of real-time motion capture and multi-sensor device information interaction, digital avatars of patients and doctors will provide real-time and intuitive feedback on accurate data and information. With the continuous improvement of computer simulation technology, digital technology will make the virtual medical world seem more real.

The changes in medical processes in the real world will follow technological development. Patients and doctors can access the digital world through various types of hardware and edit it in real-time, with everything in the real world being interconnected with the virtual world. Meta-medicine will closely integrate the virtual and the real through economic systems, social systems, and identity systems so that patients and doctors have the same richer and more intuitive perception in the three-dimensional world of real and virtual. Blockchain technology could be involved in the certification, authentication of rights, distribution, trade, use, liquidity, and authentication of virtual identities in digital medical resources and realize the intelligent management of digital rights. Real-time patient information, imaging data, and other features will shape the digital avatars of the meta-medical world. On this basis, the digital world will have greater freedom than the real world, giving us more dimensional observation perspectives, changing the manner of communication and interaction, and allowing us to reshape “reality” in the world of meta-medicine. The most notable feature of the metaverse is the fusion of real and virtual space–time, which is different from the traditional digital medical model. 

Therefore, regarding virtual-real interaction, the realization of the metaverse will rely on a powerful virtual-real interaction interface, which will complete the transition process from a traditional plane interaction to natural interaction. The achievement of the digital parallel world of meta-medicine will be inseparable from developing the related hardware. IoT devices, such as extended reality (XR) technology and brain-computer interfaces (BCI), enable communication between users and information in virtual and natural spaces. When the virtual medical environment is infinitely close to the natural medical environment and reaches the level of holographic construction and simulation, VR will be able to provide patients and doctors with a fully immersive medical experience. AR technology relies on recognition and tracking algorithms to identify objective objects and environments, helps superimpose virtual information on the real world to achieve virtual and real integration, and enhances and improves the efficiency of our cognition of things. Medical robots could become another channel for connecting meta-medicine by simulating the physical body, transforming the virtual world and the real world through natural interactive language, and realizing a virtual-real linkage. By combining the real and the virtual to create a virtual environment for human–computer interaction, a direct communication, and control channel is established between the brain and external devices, promoting the exchange of medical information in meta-medicine.

In addition, more advanced medical devices and digital technologies, such as holographic lenses (HoloLens 2), human sensors (ReSkin), organoids, and organ chips, will tremendously enhance the user's sense of immersion and bring users a new meta-medical experience. Natural interaction is a new interaction between people and the meta-medical world. Doctors can obtain objective information on patients through imaging technologies, such as CT and MRI, transform them into knowledge and intelligence through subjective consciousness, and then feed new data into the real world in different forms. The pandemic has advanced the research and development of digital health and has added more possibilities to the medical metaverse. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud technology has provided data storage and computing resources to help improve health care's safety, quality, and efficiency. The Internet of things is beneficial for remote monitoring or mobile medical treatment.

Although the advancement of digital technology has changed how we interact with the natural world and even redefined the real world, there are also many hidden dangers. But the application of technologies such as the Internet, cloud data, and VR may put patients' privacy at risk in ways we cannot predict. The privacy threats can be broadly categorized as threats to informational privacy, threats to physical privacy, and threats to associational privacy. So it requires the metaverse to provide various tools and techniques by which a user may preserve privacy. These techniques will not be perfect but learning how to measure their efficacy is essential. In addition to privacy in the real world, digital avatars of people will be bound by the privacy rules of the medical metaverse. The technological basis for realizing the metaverse is the advancement of digital technologies such as 5G data, digital twinning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and blockchain technology. Patients and doctors will use “digital avatars” to produce, adapt and exchange information in the metaverse, and finally achieve the realm of virtual-real integration and virtual-real linkage.

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