How virtual humans are advancing the Healthcare sector
Until recently, the digital avatar universe was mainly considered a field belonging to Disney and Pixar animated movies. However, after Mark Zuckerberg has announced the upcoming launch of the Metaverse, it seems the virtual world will embrace all aspects of our daily life. The metaverse attracts the growth ambitions of tech companies for its possible applications in the social and gaming genre, as well as the business sector.
Not only Facebook (now Meta), Roblox and Epic Games, but also digital giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance are investing in cyberspace, and even Microsoft has pushed the border of this new market further, with the acquisition of the gaming company Activision Blizzard. The future of plastic and aesthetic surgery, and medicine in general also seem to move towards this dimension, getting closer and closer to the digital tools of cutting-edge technology. The healthcare sector is already using some of the essential components that include the Metaverse, such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), including software and hardware to power their applications.
For instance, avatars of doctors and nurses are already a reality taking hold in different parts of the world. Sensly, a San Francisco-based startup, uses a nurse’s avatar to monitor the health of elderly patients with the aid of several smart medical devices. According to a Frost & Sullivan’s report, the market for AI in healthcare will reach 6 billion dollars in 2022 with an annual growth rate of 68%, generating savings of over 150 billion dollars. Global Market Insights estimates that there will be a yearly growth of 41.7% until 2025. The medical imaging sector alone is expected to increase at a rate of 30% each year through 2025.
Metaverse in plastic and aesthetic surgery, can this be real?
Imagine a world where medical diagnoses can be less invasive with the virtual avatar of each of us, or even being able to predict as accurately as possible the outcome of your plastic surgery. The range of the potential uses of virtual reality in plastic and aesthetic surgery seems endless, and many of them are still to explore. Nevertheless, what are the main challenges for a deep tech company that works in the medical metaverse?
Dr. Endri Dibra, CEO of Arbrea Labs and pioneer of the Medical Metaverse, talks to us about the main challenges of the future in this area.
Arbrea Labs: What is the most difficult challenge in building a digital avatar today?
Endri Dibra: Human bodies are incredibly complex machines, and each one is unique. Developing a simulation tool for plastic surgery means recreating the peculiarities of each body in terms of anatomy and appearance, while maintaining a scientific precision of the pre and post-operative results.
For instance, when building an avatar for an animated movie, it takes developers and artists months to reconstruct the details of the face, skin texture, movements and facial expressions. Arbrea’s goal is to simplify this process, reworking the data captured from reality through photos, using only an iPad or an iPhone. We have succeeded in creating a very sophisticated solution that is extremely easy and quick to use.
Arbrea Labs has two different tools, one for breast simulation and the other for the face. Which of the two has required more technical effort?
Endri Dibra: Well, we had two quite different challenges to face, each one with its own peculiarities. We created the first version of the Arbrea breast tool with a view to support women with breast cancer in the strenuous process that will change their bodies. For this reason, I wanted the simulation to be as accurate as possible. Additionally, as opposed to its Face counterpart, data on Breasts is very scarce and super hard to gather or create. We had to build all the algorithms from scratch with a team of more than 15 deep-tech engineers. This was a process that took four years, and now we can proudly say that we are one of the global leaders in Breast simulations.
The patient who uses Arbrea’s solutions can observe her/his own modified body, with the sensation of looking at her/his image as reflected in a virtual mirror. We have included the possibility of selecting the implant model and brand used during surgery in our tool, and the patient and surgeon can now visualise it both in real-time Augmented Reality and in 3D. Our work and research build the basis of the medical Metaverse. Each product has different characteristics that reshape the patient’s body according to specific features. Offering such a broad portfolio of solutions has been challenging for our developers, but it provides a more personalised experience for patients and surgeons.
Arbrea Labs: And what about the face simulation tool?
Endri Dibra: Recreating or reconstructing the human face is even more complex because of the Uncanny Valley effect. To use the words of prof. Markus Gross, VP Research of Disney, Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich and Arbrea Labs co-founder: “The reason why human faces are so notoriously difficult to model lies in the Uncanny Valley effect, the ability of our brain to perceive, read and differentiate human facial (e)motion”
Arbrea Labs is one of the first companies specialised in the Medical Metaverse. How does this make you feel?
Endri Dibra: I think our work is fascinating. On the one hand, it makes us feel like pioneers of the future, we are literally creating the cyberspace, and the journey is still very long. On the other hand, the constant relationship with patients and doctors reminds us that the most important thing remains the human being. All our efforts aim to improve the surgical experience for the patient, making the decision-making process more informed and safe.
I always ask myself how will the concept of the “future me”, in the shape of a digital human avatar, play a role in the more general field of the Metaverse overall. Perhaps digital avatars will help us build a new concept of identity that goes beyond body limits in order to become who we want to be. Arbrea is one of the very few companies in this niche, striving to provide realistic potential changes of our bodies, in both the virtual and the real world.
🟣 Do you want to know more about Arbrea’s Augmented Reality Tools for Breast Surgery? Book a Demo with our experts
Frost & Sullivan. 2022. Frost & Sullivan Reveals 2019 Top Growth Opportunities in Healthcare by Region and Key Sectors. [online] [Accessed 20 January 2022].
Global Market Insights Inc. 2022. Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Market Forecast Report 2021-2027. [online] [Accessed 20 January 2022].
Gross, M., 2022. The Future Of AI – Digital Humans Enter Their Primetime. [online][Accessed 20 January 2022].