Where We Are Investing Now: XR in Health
XR (the new overarching term for VR and AR) is one of those areas that keeps looking promising, but never seems to happen. Throughout 2019 AR/VR was a market in turmoil and COVID made it worse: Headsets are too expensive for individuals to buy and use them at home, and COVID eliminated any chance for people to go to public spaces for XR experiences. The market, already shaky, essentially stopped.
The only area of XR with a pulse is in health.
With COVID limiting traditional in-person healthcare, Telehealth is booming. But remote care has one glaring weakness: the practitioner can’t touch the patient. Can’t palpate. Can’t walk around the person. Can’t get the full view. XR has the potential to bring that missing element into telehealth. And drugstores and clinics remain open during the pandemic, so they could be places where this could take place even while COVID is active. Clever AR approaches could (and are) bringing this kind of demi-physicality into the home.
Another interesting XR area in health is skills training. Doctors need visual and tactile experience to learn complex procedures and understand new techniques. Deep immersion sessions can be effective ways to co-experience rich medical and scientific data.
XR also remains valuable in certain areas of therapeutics, especially mental health therapy.
For the remainder of the year, we will seek to invest in XR for Health only in these limited areas:
- XR as a therapeutic, with a particular focus on mental health and other diseases or patient populations that benefit from immersive experiences.
- XR for health training and education: MD/RN first, patients second.
- AR as an element of telehealth.
In XR Health, we are likely to find many more fascinating technologies than well-conceived businesses. Revenue should always come via a business here; consumers may ultimately pay, but this is not a B2C market now. We still think direct consumer payment for XR lays in the future. We should also be wary of extended timelines for new technology adoption. In every case, we will model value creation based on the most conservative possible adoption models.
By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart