Austin-based digital health company Sharecare Inc. announced today that it is launching its virtual reality software platform dubbed You, providing a way for healthcare providers, educators, students and patients to see their own bodies in a way they never have before.
The software platform uses a medically accurate simulation of organ and system functions, as well as diseases and therapies. It’s available today for HTC Corp.’s Vive VR headset via the company’s Viveport distribution network.
Growing up, the medically minded may have encountered books such as a modern version of Gray’s Anatomy – replete with diagrams of internal organs such as the heart, lungs, circulatory system and nervous system. Some of these volumes even contain layered transparencies that display a human being from the inside out starting with the skeleton, then musculature, then veins and arteries, and finally organ systems.
Others may have encountered a medical anatomy model called “The Visible Man,” which did much the same thing except as a toy person with transparent skin.
Sharecare You takes this progress from book to model and brings it into a brand-new frontier with the powerful immersive capability of virtual reality. Pages and models provide a great deal of information and context, but being able to enter and explore the human body as if going inside builds a greater understanding of the nature of how it all works.
In some ways, Sharecare You may be as close to the Jules Verne-style adventure of the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, in which scientists miniaturize themselves and enter a human body to fight a disease.
“At Sharecare, our mission is rooted in empowering everyone, no matter where they are on their health journey, to live their best lives, and we believe that technologies like virtual reality can move that idea forward exponentially,” said Jeff Arnold, Sharecare’s co-founder and chief executive.
Arnold called Sharecare You a Google Maps of the human body and his company’s work as a “vision to set the standard for visual health.”
The company hopes to use the software to educate and enlighten patients as well as medical students and doctors. By design, You is a visual communication tool designed to provide a medically accurate model of the human body that can be prepared by a medical professional before and after treatment.
Users may freely navigate an anatomically and functionally accurate 3-D model of a virtual human body and its individual organs, in real time with unparalleled medical accuracy. The software also includes the ability to personalize physiological functions such as heart rate, as well as the severity of disease and the extent of therapy and explore 360-degree rotations of organs and systems.
“VR has a tremendous potential to reframe how patients learn about both their body and medical conditions,” said Daniel O’Brien, the general manager of HTC Vive for the U.S.
Virtual reality and augmented reality have generated huge interest in the medical community. In part because of the capability of using VR and AR to train medical students, to serve as treatment options for psychological conditions and physical therapy. For example, Vivid Vision Inc. produced a VR solution for the treatment of amblyopia, also called a “lazy eye” and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. teamed up with hospitals in South Korea to use VR to fight depression and suicide.
A report released in May by Grand View Research Inc. predicted that the VR and AR market for the medical industry would reach $5.1 billion by 2025. The Vivid and Samsung examples represent only a small segment of how hospitals and healthcare professionals have begun to explore the use of VR. Sharecare product represents yet another window of opportunity for the medical industry to take advantage of this emerging technology.
Starting today, You is available to demo at local Microsoft Corp. stores on HTC Vive VR headsets. The software is powered by Windows 10 and requires an HTC Vive VR headset.
The company said in a statement that it plans to release You for additional VR platforms – such as the Oculus Rift, Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR – but no details are available yet. Further information, future features and release dates are on the Sharecare You website.