Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are redefining what’s possible in healthcare, as well as other sectors. The 18 companies listed below are some of the top virtual and augmented reality companies in the medical industry.
Defining Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a technology that blends real-world elements with virtual ones. For example, a person might visit a trade show and aim their smartphone at a display to activate an AR experience that allows them to see a computer-generated version of a product.
This approach is particularly useful for getting people excited about prototypes or helping them understand the potential of any item not yet finalized.
AR vs. VR: What’s The Difference?
Virtual reality is another buzz-worthy technology that continues to capture attention and fascinate people in the medical sector and outside of it. Although VR and AR have some similarities, they’re not the same.
Both technologies typically respond to real-time changes, such as how a person moves. Thus, the technologies need extremely low latency to work seamlessly for users. Additionally, VR and AR seek to give people experiences that are not possible to achieve quickly in the real world alone. For example, home furnishing brand IKEA offered an AR app that allowed people to place virtual pieces in their homes to check dimensions.
However, whereas AR incorporates some versions of the actual environment into its results, VR aims to give people a completely immersive experience that begins once they strap on the required headsets. A person engaging with a VR experience will see everything happening inside the headset, but the AR experience happens by enhancing things within an individual’s environment.
Another difference between VR and AR is that the latter arguably has a wider variety of possible applications in other industries, such as manufacturing. It’s not practical for people who are working on a factory floor to all don VR headsets. However, they may use far less cumbersome AR-enabled glasses, goggles, or screens to assist with a broad assortment of tasks ranging from quality assurance to assembly.
The Potential, Benefits and Use Cases for AR and VR in Healthcare
An analysis from MarketsandMarkets profiled the expected growth of AR and VR in healthcare from 2017-2025. The company anticipates a combined annual growth rate of 30.7% during the timeframe studied.
There’s plenty of potential for VR and AR in healthcare, but how might people use it, specifically? Surgical planning could become easier. Even the most experienced surgeons sometimes encounter surprises when operating on patients, but these high-tech solutions may make those instances less common.
Researchers have investigated using VR to educate patients before their surgeries, too. For example, a person can see a digitized version of their brain, along with the problem a surgeon needs to fix and how they will do it.
Beyond teaching patients about the procedures they need, VR and AR can help surgeons plan their interventions, making them less likely to encounter surprises or feel unprepared. Some technologies show digital information appearing on top of a patient’s body in real-time.
Also, these technologies could improve training in medical school. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University embarked on an AR project that could see medical students trade their anatomy apps for AR. An augmented reality tool displayed an internal view of the body on top of a student’s physique. The technology also included a gesture-sensitive user interface, allowing people to interact with the AR representation.
The Top Augmented and Virtual Reality Companies in Healthcare
The promises of medical augmented reality and virtual reality are compelling enough to get anyone excited about what’s possible. These companies intend to be at the forefront of VR and AR healthcare.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Funding to Date: $9.6 million
Key Clients/Milestones: FundamentalVR was named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions for 2018 and got an Interactive Innovation Award at SXSW 2019. All of FundamentalVR’s simulations are accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The company also has a joint development agreement with the Mayo Clinic.
This company offers flight simulator-like training for surgeons. The approach allows them to rehearse, practice and improve their surgical techniques in a controlled environment that includes haptic elements for tactile feedback. Although the company has many virtual reality simulations, it also offers AR tech using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. It allows users to work together through the simulations.
2. Karuna Labs
Location: San Francisco, California
Funding to Date: $3 million
Key Clients/Milestones: Products are HIPAA-compliant and FDA-registered.
The company uses evidence-based approaches to treat chronic pain through virtual reality simulations. Patients can do the treatment at home or in a local clinic. If done in a clinic, the treatment program lasts from four to 12 weeks based on the patient’s individual needs.
Location: Oxford, United Kingdom
Funding to Date: £13.2 million
Key Clients/Milestones: It has partnerships with the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, as well as the McPin Foundation, which works to improve mental health research. OxfordVR also won the 2020 award in the Apps and Software category for Best Mental Health Immersive Technology at the MedTech Visionaries Awards.
OxfordVR focuses on virtual reality to relieve the symptoms of mental disorders and fears. For example, its fear of heights simulation reduced the issue in patients by an average of 68% after only two hours of treatment.
Location: Arlington Heights, Illinois, and Yoqneam, Israel
Funding to Date: $25.1 million
Key Clients/Milestones: The company has received FDA 501(k) clearance for its headset. It will begin distributing its headsets throughout the U.S in early 2020 and plans to move into uses beyond spinal surgeries soon.
The company has what it calls “the first augmented reality guidance system for surgery,” known as xvision. The technology adds a 3D representation that enables surgeons to see the patient’s anatomy through skin and tissue as if they had X-ray vision. When tested as surgeons placed spinal screws in cadavers, the accuracy rate while using the VR headset was 98.9%.
Location: Los Angeles, California, and Cleveland, Ohio
Funding to Date: $9.6 million
Key Clients/Milestones: The Mayo Clinic, UCLA School of Medicine, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and the Stanford School of Medicine are among the places that have used the company’s technology so far.
Surgical Theater created a “surgical rehearsal platform” for neurosurgical procedures called Precision VR. It allows for better preoperative planning. However, unlike some medical technology companies, this one has simulations a patient can go through with their health provider. For example, if a person faces an operation for a brain tumor, they can see a VR scenario that shows the process.
Location: Santa Clara, California
Funding to Date: $14.3 million
Key Clients/Milestones: It has received FDA clearance. Institutions including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Primary Children’s Hospital, C.S. Mott Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital have brought the technology into clinical use.
The company offers an AR healthcare platform called True3D that facilitates visualizing and interacting with the organs and tissue for a specific patient. Users can also see medical imaging results along with the holograph-like images provided by the technology.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Funding to Date: $2.5 million
Key Clients/Milestones: Medivis counts Verizon, Microsoft and Magic Leap among its industry partners. Medivis also recently launched its program for patients using the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center. The goal of that initiative is to identify health applications that combine with 5G technology. West Coast also used the Medivs platform to help medical students learn anatomy.
The company combines medical augmented reality with artificial intelligence (AI) to provide helpful presurgical information or details related to a person’s anatomy. It envisions a time when healthcare providers can break free of the limitations posed by 2D screens and instead bring information and tools to the real world through 3D representations.
Location: Westminster, Colorado
Funding to Date: $17 million
Key Clients/Milestones: Every simulation is co-developed with notable EMS agencies and Hospitals like Arvada Fire & Rescue, Cedars Sinai, Mount Sinai New York, New York City Health & Hospital, as well as professional societies to ensure the content experience is both clinically accurate and meaningful.
Health Scholars VR training solutions scale life-saving experience using AI-enabled VR simulations and performance assessment designed specifically for first responders and clinicians. Their VR simulations address required emergency care training for adult and pediatric scenarios in pre-hospital, general care, perioperative, and obstetrical settings. The platform delivers the most accurate, interactive, and measurable training experience possible.
Location: Charlestown, Massachusetts
Funding to Date: $30 million
Key Clients/Milestones: It was the first surgical robot to receive FDA Breakthrough designation. Bill Gates is one of the company’s backers.
The company combines virtual reality with a surgical robot to result in minimally invasive procedures.
10. Touch Surgery
Location: London, United Kingdom
Funding to Date: $19.5 million.
Key Clients/Milestones: Touch Surgery received the Amazon Web Services Hot Startups Award, and it also got a Brandon Hall Silver Award in 2014. Residency programs at the Cleveland Clinic, Stanford School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital, and others use Touch Surgery’s technology for training.
Touch Surgery offers more than 200 VR surgical simulations and videos across 17 specialties that learners can access anywhere with an internet connection.
11. Proprio Vision
Location: Seattle, Washington
Funding to Date: $30 million
Key Clients/Milestones: Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington’s Department of Neurological Surgery are two of the company’s clinical research partners.
The company blends human vision with computerized technology, enabling surgeons to see the body in new, immersive ways and improving the success rates of their procedures.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Funding to Date: $2.1 million
Key Clients/Milestones: The Cleveland Clinic, University of Calgary, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Johns Hopkins Medicine were some of the early adopters of ImmersiveTouch’s technology.
ImmersiveTouch creates 3D virtual reality models using a patient’s individualized medical imaging data.
13. OSSO VR
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Funding to Date: $2 million
Key Clients/Milestones: OSSO VR was involved in a pilot program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and was a DocsF18 Innovation Award Winner.
This company specializes in using virtual reality to facilitate surgical training and assessments. It offers fully immersive VR experiences, complete with haptic feedback.
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Funding to Date: $7.4 million
Key Clients/Milestones: Was named one of the Top 10 Cardiovascular Device Companies in 2019 by Med Tech Outlook
This company uses medical augmented reality to create a holographic visualization of a patient’s anatomy. That image floats over the patient during interventional procedures, such as while treating cardiac arrhythmias in a catheter lab.
Location: Taipei City, Taiwan, and Fairfax, Virginia
Funding to Date: $500,000
Key Clients/Milestones: Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau, and the Davao Medical School Foundation are some of the company’s clients. Medical Augmented Intelligence counts Intel, NVIDIA, and Vive among its technology partners.
Medical Augmented Intelligence offers immersive virtual reality training for anatomy and acupuncture, plus “digital twin” models for patient education. The patient-based models convert 2D medical images to VR models in less than 30 seconds.
Location: Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic
Cost: The HoloAnatomy app is free, but the Microsoft HoloLens device that enables the app costs $3,000.
Key Clients/Milestones: It was a winner at the 2016 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Science Media Awards
Although most of this list consists of the top augmented and virtual reality healthcare companies, this entry is a bit different because it’s an app. When using a Microsoft HoloLens device, people can go through a digitized, interactive anatomy curriculum.
Location: Palo Alto, California
Funding to Date: $3.6 million
Key Clients/Milestones: The SyncThink headset received FDA clearance. Massachusetts General Hospital, Children’s National Medical Center, and Georgia Tech University are some of the clients this company has on its roster.
SyncThink devoted 15 years of clinical research to develop a virtual reality headset called the EYE-SYNC. It tracks a person’s eye movements and helps clinicians determine if they have a concussion.
18. XR Health
Funding to Date: $15.5 million
Key Clients/Milestones: XRHealth is currently utilized at hospitals across the globe, including Sheba Medical Center, Stanford Sports Medicine, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Hoag Hospital Network, and Mass General Hospital’s Sports Medicine Center.
XRHealth is the first company to create virtual reality clinics that provide remote care to patients throughout the United States and is covered by most major health insurance companies as well as medicare. One of the unique features that VR therapy provides is virtual support groups, where patients with similar conditions can connect anonymously and remotely with leading physicians moderating the group.
An Exciting Future for AR and VR in Healthcare
Even in these relatively early stages, virtual reality and augmented reality have drastically reshaped what’s possible in the medical field. The top augmented reality companies listed above are proof of the pioneering viewpoints held by many of the dedicated people working diligently to hone these technologies.
Even if healthcare providers are not using these technologies in their practices, they should stay abreast of this progress. It likely won’t be long before AR and VR are as familiar to medical professionals as many of the tools and techniques they could not imagine living without today.