New and emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D printing, and drones will have many applications for future use. As these technologies develop, their potential in a number of different industries will become apparent and customized use will change how we interact with and use these tools of the future. One such industry that will be affected by the implementation of these technologies is the health care industry. VR, AR, 3D printing, and drones all have use in the health care industry, whether it be in training new specialists, promoting fitness and wellness, creating medical devices, or delivering medical supplies.
Although VR and AR were originally envisioned as tools for entertainment, they also hold unique opportunities for use in health care. It is predicted that, by 2022, health care will account for the second largest market share of the augmented and mixed reality market worldwide. The use of augmented reality to promote fitness and wellness through gaming apps was highlighted in 2016 with Nintendo’s mobile game, Pokémon Go. However, such technology could also be used for on-the-spot nutritional and drug information, and surgical guidance. Applications for VR in health care are even more varied and include training specialists, patient distraction and stress relief, scenario planning, and treating mental illness, such as anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder. The health care segment of the AR and VR market is expected to be worth over 5 billion dollars by the year 2025. In 2017, the virtual reality health care market alone in the U.S. was worth almost one billion dollars, almost double what it was valued at in 2012.
3D printing, perhaps even more so than VR and AR, has the potential to revolutionize medicine and health care. The applications of this innovative technology are numerous and, at times, unbelievable. 3D printing is already used to produce medical devices, such as hearing aids, and will be used more in the future to customize prosthetics and even transplants. As of 2016, the most common uses of 3D printing in health care included dental implants, implants, prosthetics and hearing aids. Scientists have already 3D printed a heart valve, ear cartilage, blood vessels and cells, hoping one day soon to print solid organs such as livers, kidneys, and even hearts. Such technology would be instrumental in helping the thousands of people in the U.S. alone who wait for organ transplants every year. As of 2016, the U.S. accounted for almost 40 percent of this new market, which is expected to be worth around 1.2 billion dollars by the year 2024.
By 2022, the commercial drone market in the U.S. is predicted to be worth around one billion dollars. The use of drones for medical purposes is now becoming a reality and such drones have already been used to deliver blood products to hospitals and health centers in Rwanda. The medical drones of the future will assist in delivering medical supplies to remote areas, offering emergency or disaster relief and transporting samples for testing. This innovative technology can be hard for users to embrace and a consumer survey from 2016 found that only 40 percent of consumers were interested in using drones to deliver medication to chronic disease patients with limited mobility, and only 38 percent were interested in using drones to deliver laboratory samples.
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