Augmedix and Mindmaze – Virtual Reality in Healthcare
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are emerging disruptive technologies that while slow to takeoff, will likely change the way we live our lives. We’ve talked before about VR/AR companies like Magic Leap which we speculated was what happened to Google Glass. When we wrote that article, Google was the lead investor behind Magic Leap’s funding of $600 million. Since then, Alibaba lead an additional round totaling $827 million in February of this year. With Magic Leap having raised $1.42 BILLION so far, it’s hard to doubt that VR/AR will soon be a commonplace tool.
With the first VR surgery broadcast announced recently, maybe the initial area we will see VR/AR applied aside from gaming is in healthcare. The company behind the VR surgery broadcast is called Medical Realities and they have developed a learning program for head mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. While this event dominated media headlines, the truth is that there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot going on with VR in healthcare yet. With that said, here are two VR/AR startups we came across that are targeting the healthcare industry with some interesting VR/AR-enabled offerings.
While Google has a meaningful investment in Magic Leap, this hasn’t stopped them from moving forward with their own VR hardware which we know as Google Glass. One company using Google Glass for healthcare applications is Augmedix. Founded in 2012, San Francisco based Augmedix has taken in $40 million in funding so far from 16 different investors to develop their service offering which enables doctors to use Google Glass during facetime with patients in order to reduce the need to record data into a computer during patient time. The idea is that physicians spend less time in front of the computer and more time face-to-face with patients. It’s not just that Google Glass is used to record the interactions with the patient, but also that patient information can be delivered right on Google Glass, including labs, medications, allergies and more. You can also populate notes, forms, fields, and drop-downs in the patient’s electronic health record (EHR) without sitting in front of a computer screen. While patients aren’t likely to want to disrobe in front of the device, the solution has a 99% patient acceptance rate. In short, the Augmedix solution frees up to a ⅓ of your week which you would normally spend on charting.
Founded in 2012 as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), this Swiss startup has taken in $108 million to launch devices which use virtual reality, brain imaging and gaming technologies to retrain the brain how to work again for those suffering from brain injuries like stroke victims. Their most recent funding round which closed in February of this year puts their valuation at $1 billion or in other words, they are now a unicorn. In fact, it appears that they are the second highest valued VR company now behind Magic Leap. MindMaze caused a stir with the introduction of the industry’s first thought-powered virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and motion capture game system called MindMotionPRO. The best way to describe how this works is that MindMotionPRO can trick the patient’s brain into believing that immobilized regions of their body are still working, thereby spurring the recovery to take place.
The platform uses brain data, movement data, and muscle data to produce interactions in VR with “zero latency”. MindMotionPRO devices have achieved the European equivalent of FDA approval (CE Marked) and are actively being used in several top university hospitals across Europe. Mindmaze is now working on getting FDA approval so that the device can be put to use in U.S. hospitals as well.
In doing research for this article, the general sentiment we saw was that most pundits are surprised at how slow VR technology has been to address healthcare applications. An article by TechCrunch late last year titled “Virtual Reality In Healthcare: Where’s The Innovation?” pretty much sums it up. There’s an expectation that we should be much further ahead than we are today, and this means we’ll likely see more new entrants in this space as the technology improves. Gaming is a whole lot of fun but saving lives is where the real value add is.
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