Ophthalmologists should improve their knowledge of the metaverse

November 07, 2022

2 minute read


Disclosures: Lindstrom reports having financial disclosures for Alcon, Bausch + Lomb, Ceyeber, Johnson & Johnson Vison, Ocutrx and Zeiss.

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Like many of my senior colleagues, I am unfamiliar with the metaverse and cyberspace, just as I was unfamiliar with the power of computers and the internet 5 decades ago when I began my medical training.

Today, I couldn’t function without a computer and a smartphone with internet access and Zoom. This morning, when I opened my digital devices, I did so without a specialized optical device on my head, and my interaction was two-dimensional.

Richard L. Lindstrom, MD

Entering the metaverse and cyberspace requires a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headset or glasses to convert the two-dimensional internet into a three-dimensional metaverse. For example, sitting at home in front of a computer, the Metaverse allows an individual to simulate a live meeting with hundreds of people in the room in 3D. While in the metaverse, the user can jump from one educational session to another in a single meeting or even jump from an American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting to a meeting elsewhere in the world. At a Metaverse cocktail party, the user can sit at home in a comfortable chair, sip their favorite drink, and “walk” with the attendees, allowing for one-on-one or small group conversations simulating the social interaction that we all find so valuable live. meetings.

The metaverse user creates their own metaverse identity in the form of an avatar, and the visual experience of chatting with a diverse group of avatars is itself unique. To enter the metaverse, you must use a computer or smartphone and a VR/AR headset. Some systems also use augmented headphones, allowing for a theater-like sound experience. The financial barrier to entering the metaverse is low. Amazon Prime is selling a powerful premium Oculus VR/AR headset with 256GB for $499. Just ordered one to continue my journey through the metaverse. Significant investments are being made in the Metaverse, which will expand its capabilities and, as I’ll discuss in a moment, potential downsides.

Both Microsoft and Facebook (now Meta Platforms) invest billions in developing and improving the metaverse. The United States Department of Defense determined that it must be ready to wage war and defend America and its allies on land and sea and in air, space and cyberspace.

On the benevolent side of the equation, the metaverse promises enhanced social interaction and communication. The potential of the metaverse to improve and revolutionize remote patient examination, enhance telehealth, and improve medical education, especially surgical skills training, is enormous. Many steps of an eye exam could be performed at home, with the patient wearing VR/AR glasses and interacting with their doctor facilitated by the metaverse. An ophthalmology resident using the Metaverse could potentially watch the world’s top surgeons perform cataract surgery and then have them mentor them on their own simulated or real procedures, all in high definition 3D.

On the malicious side, we have potential user addiction, information privacy issues, user security, and the specter of cyber warfare. Predators of all kinds will find the Metaverse Participant an interesting target. The monetary currency of the metaverse is cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens using blockchain encryption technology. I recently bought my first cryptocurrency to start learning here too. If you think the stock market is volatile, buying Bitcoin or Ethereum will make it look tame. The opportunities for fraud, abuse, theft of money and identity theft are significant. Children and the elderly are likely to be particularly vulnerable.

The cycle of innovation, accompanied by huge investments in human and financial capital, is working hard to expand the metaverse. It is time for all of us to increase our understanding and comfort with the metaverse, as it can prove as disruptive and beneficial to ourselves and our patients as digital devices and the internet.

Donald E. Patel