Levelling up the potential of gaming technology & RT3D

Jessica Lindl, Unity’s VP of Education and Social Impact, explores the possibilities of digital twin technology & video games in the healthcare sector

Despite video games being notorious for causing health problems - promoting bad posture, causing poor emotional regulation, and bringing out addictive personalities - software development company Unity is looking to change this view by harnessing the best qualities of gaming technology to make healthcare more accessible. 

Jessica Lindl serves as the Vice President of Education and Social Impact at Unity, where she empowers Unity’s creators and employees to leverage the power of real-time 3D (RT3D) technology, to make a positive difference in the world. 

“Having spent more than 15 years driving social impact at for-profit and non-profit organisations, largely in the education industry, I made the transition into technology as I was attracted by the power and scale it has to make a profound difference in the world,” she explains. 

During her time at Unity, Lindl has spearheaded the founding of Unity’s social impact initiatives.

“I’m particularly motivated by empowering creators to build impactful healthcare experiences because everyone will at some point need physical and mental health support for themselves or their loved ones,” says Lindl.

The potential of gaming technology in building the future of healthcare

At Unity, gaming technology advancing  healthcare by making it more accessible and empathetic. In particular, the use of real-time 3D content, originally developed for video games, is already transforming the healthcare sector. 

“In a human-centric industry, real-time 3D enables boundaries to be pushed from the real world into the virtual, developing applications with the potential to change lives for the better through unique, empathetic and supportive experiences,” says Lindl. 

The applications span multiple areas of impact:

  • Upskilling medical professionals on new approaches and discoveries
  • Augmenting medical procedures
  • Supporting telemedicine
  • Improving mental health and well being 
  • Increasing engagement and completion for physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Unity’s technology powers Embodied Labs, a VR upskilling app that helps caregivers step into the shoes of the person they’re caring for and deeply understand their lived experience. Because of this, caregivers know what to expect, how to relate and how to respond more clearly, support more confidently and serve with greater purpose.

“For example, if you’re caring for someone with hearing or vision loss, the immersive experience will effectively simulate what that experience feels like so that you can learn first-hand how difficult it is to keep up with tasks that would otherwise feel very easy for you,” says Lindl. “This fosters a greater understanding and connection with those being cared for which can create a more harmonious patient-carer dynamic.”

Another healthcare application that Unity technology enables is Augment Therapy, an AR experience that engages patients of all ages in immersive, gamified technology to improve rehabilitative healthcare. 

“The AR experience is designed particularly to help children in hospitals, often those with intense pain, to get out of bed to conduct physical therapy and ultimately become well enough to go home,” she explains.

Beyond helping patients, the tech also helps the healthcare industry by reducing patients’ length of stay, the cost and staffing pressures.  

In partnership with Level Ex, Unity is designing state-of-the-art medical video games to train physicians on the most modern techniques and technologies for practising medicine. 

“Their high quality immersive content trains doctors in cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology and anesthesiology, with more specialties on the way,” says Lindl. 

She adds: “While mobile game Apart of Me helps youth cope with loss or grief through the expression and management of emotions ranging from loneliness to anger, overwhelm and fear. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Unity are co-developing a virtual reality-based surgical simulation platform to connect surgeons worldwide to collaboratively plan complex paediatric heart surgeries using real-time anatomic digital twin data.”

Finally, XR Peds works within the department of Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine using extended reality and game technology in applications, interventions and research with the goal of improving lives and reducing disparities among youth and their families. 

“They build applications for youth to aid them in experiencing health disparities associated with race/ethnicity, age, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic status and disability,” notes Lindl.

The possibilities of digital twin technology in the healthcare sector

A digital twin is a dynamic virtual copy of a physical asset, process, system or environment that looks like and behaves identically to its real-world counterpart. Lindl sees potential for digital twin technology to help alleviate skill shortages in the healthcare industry. 

“Digital twin technology can support healthcare in a range of ways, like creating realistic training environments for healthcare professionals. For example, enabling medical students and practitioners to trial complex procedures, surgical techniques, and emergency scenarios in virtual environments,” she explains. “This allows for repetitive and immersive training without the need for physical resources or live patients.”

Digital twins can also be applied to optimise healthcare processes and workflows. By analysing data from various sources, including electronic health records, wearable devices, and sensors, digital twins can identify bottlenecks, predict potential issues and optimise resource allocation. 

“By helping healthcare organisations streamline operations and efficiencies, this enables healthcare professionals to focus on their most important role, patient care and interaction,” says Lindl.

However, many challenges still exist within the industry that are preventing the widespread adoption of these technologies. Healthcare professionals require training and education to effectively use mixed reality technologies. Adoption may be hindered if healthcare providers are unfamiliar with the technology or lack confidence in its use. Lindl believes that overcoming resistance to change and fostering user acceptance is crucial for widespread adoption. 

“Mixed reality technologies can also be expensive to implement, requiring hardware, software and infrastructure investment,” says Lindl. “The cost of acquiring and maintaining the necessary equipment can pose a barrier for healthcare organisations, particularly smaller facilities or those with limited budgets. What’s important to note is that, in the long run, these technologies have the potential to provide a huge return on investment as they simplify workflows, foster a more personalised understanding of patients and in turn provide better healthcare for all.” 

Lindl’s advice for bodies within the healthcare industry looking to benefit from the use of mixed reality technologies, is to provide comprehensive training and support to healthcare professionals and end-users who will be utilising mixed reality technologies. 

“A great starting point for healthcare professionals is understanding how technologies can benefit existing operations and build on their medical practices, rather than replace them,” concludes Lindl.

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