The third richest man in the world and serial entrepreneur, Elon Musk, presented Neuralink, an ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interface (BMI) that connects people and computers. From a public relations perspective, Neuralink more than lived up to Musk’s reputation for thinking big and novel. The scientific community’s responses to it were conflicting, and we shall talk about those later.
However, Neuralink only served to trigger a few of my memory neurons, which then transported me to a Singularity University session I had previously attended. There, I spotted a remark from Satya Nadella that read: “The future of computing will be driven by quantum, AI, and XR.” He mentioned AI (artificial intelligence) and quantum computing for reasons I could understand, but his mention of XR in the same sentence confused me.
The extended reality, or XR, encompasses technologies including augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality (mixed reality). I had always looked of XR as a side project to more popular technologies like AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things, etc. Nadella, though, had a different opinion. I discovered that XR was more than simply a tool for making Pokémon Go or showing you a car in various colors; it was also something that might help the blind “see” or help paralysed war veterans walk, just like what BMI had promised.
The market for XR is expected to be worth $209 billion by 2022, according to Statista and the International Data Corp, driven by the shipment of 66 million AR/VR headsets. Applications include training in dangerous environments, selling through virtual goods like shoes, clothing, and real estate, entertainment through virtual music festivals, and travel where you can view giraffes without traveling to Kenya (good for covid times).
XR has a lot of potential in the medical field. For precise intravenous drug administration, it might, for example, display your arm’s veins. To improve efficiency and safety, solar systems use XR with overlays and heads-up displays.
Although they are excellent, the “merging of the digital, physical, and biological” is what truly distinguishes this technology as a superpower. Consider the neo-cortex of our brain’s cerebral cortex, which is responsible for vision and hearing. The primary visual cortex, which is responsible for our ability to see, is one area of this that XR specifically targets. Here is where XR can perform its miracle. It can enhance our vision and reorganize our brains in actuality.
Pain relief is one use for this XR-rewiring. Israeli company VRHealth, for instance, is working on using VR to treat migraine symptoms. According to the company’s founder Eran Orr, “our brain is like a CPU—75% of that CPU goes to sights and sound.” “Things like pain can go down the priority list when we overtax our CPU with an immersive device like VR.
Because of this, it’s fantastic for pain relief or distraction from discomfort. It completely changes the game when combined with true therapy. The New York Times recently featured Hollie Davis, a woman who credits using virtual reality as part of her pain management after suffering a motorbike accident for her present full mobility.
She “spent 10 to 20 minutes in a dark room while a head-mounted 3-D screen took her to a very soothing environment, educated her about the nature of pain, how oxygen goes through the body, then how to breathe, focus on her breathing, relax her body, and think about nothing else.” The device stimulates several senses, essentially overstimulating the brain with information that prevents it from registering pain. The brain sends a busy signal whenever pain signals attempt to pass through.
VR can assist paraplegics in regaining their emotional capacity. Eight “chronic paraplegics” were the subject of a recent study in which participants undertook a year-long training module using BMIs and virtual reality technology. The status classification of half of the patients was changed from “chronic” to “incomplete paraplegia”. One of them was able to move her legs without the aid of a support harness after having been paralysed for 13 years.
According to Medich, XR can be applied to offer “cognitive ergonomics.” Cognitive ergonomics increases brain power, whereas physical ergonomics increases manpower. Therefore, XR will be extremely strong when paired with Neuralink-like technology. They could allow the infirm to walk once more and the pain sufferers to overcome their suffering.
If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about the virtual reality chamber in star trek.