Health in the Metaverse
As the Metaverse transforms from trendy nerd-speak to must-have strategy, conversations dominate our social spaces about joining the Metaverse and what that means for work, retail and brands. Surely, the extension of our physical reality into a limitless virtual expanse must be powered strictly by consumerism and labor. That’s the only way we can make the Metaverse work, right?
Perhaps, but as companies duel over virtual real estate and avatar fashion, I think about how the Metaverse will serve our basic needs. Without the limits of physical reality, what will we now have the ability to solve?
Here are a few possibilities of how the Metaverse could help us solve one of our biggest, most complex challenges: healthcare
Right now, mental and physical therapies have been extended into the virtual space with the use of VR headsets and some AR experiences. With the emerging metaverse, we will see therapeutics breaking out of their individual patient experiences and becoming a socially driven experience. The Metaverse provides a potentially safer alternative for health seekers to practice their therapies in social situations and interact with others, putting theory into practice without physical danger.
Imagine a teenager struggling with social anxiety. They can enter the Metaverse and practice their social skills with other (virtual) individuals, all from the comfort and safety of their own home.
Neuroplasticity and Behavior Change
The Metaverse provides a malleable space for individuals to modify their behaviors. No longer limited to our physical reality, the Metaverse will host experiences that can rewire our neural pathways, accelerating healing and behavior change. I think of EMDR therapy, which uses bilateral rhythms to stimulate both sides of the brain to help heal old memories. This therapy could be blended into something more innocuous, like a virtual concert or group meditation. As the Metaverse expands, so do the opportunities for healing.
My favorite vision for health in the Metaverse is Health Characters. As reality ends and a new one begins, we will no longer be limited to the physically tangible. In the Metaverse, the microscopic concepts of health come to life. Meet the Red blood cell and explore its physical anatomy, join your White blood cells in a battle against Streptococcus, dance with your neurons as you learn a new shuffle step. These Health Characters will be as lively as your favorite Disney heroes, but instead of whisking you away to escapism, they help you understand how your own body works.
Yes, this is one part Fantastic Voyage, one part Osmosis Jones — but it’s all doable in the Metaverse. From educational purposes to entertainment, we can finally interact with the tiniest aspects of our health. No longer will we be strangers to our own bodies, but instead we’ll be intimately involved with our own anatomy and able to advocate for our health with deeper understanding and conviction.
That’s one of the driving forces why I created my mobile AR game Virus Hunters — to introduce players to their own health. I strongly believe that health literacy and health outcomes can improve if we reframe health as a character driven experience, blending interactive entertainment with accessible health knowledge.
Ultimately, the Metaverse will make health more social and less prescriptive. It will be experiential, interactive and dare I say it, even fun?