Partnerships in the augmented and virtual reality space reflect growing interest in healthcare applications

In recent years, an increasing number of partnerships have been forged between large technology companies, start-ups developing healthcare-specific applications, hospitals, and research centers in the virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) space due to increasing healthcare expenditure and the need for cutting-edge technologies to aid the development of novel therapies and diagnostics, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Virtual/Augmented Reality in Healthcare – Thematic Research’, found that partnerships between technology companies and healthcare-specific companies are on the rise, with high profile players increasingly looking to collaborate with those in the medical sphere. For example, in 2019, an increasing number of partnerships were formed between large multinationals including Dell, Microsoft, and AT&T, and smaller tech providers and VR/AR technology companies. The rationale behind many of these partnerships is health-related, spanning from improving neurosurgery, bringing VR/AR hardware into labs and clinics, and advancing commercialization standards for prescription digital medicines, as well as combining with emerging 5G to improve latency during surgery and remote patient monitoring.

Roxanne Balfe, MSc, Digital Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, says: “VR and AR technologies have traditionally been associated with the entertainment industry, with virtual and immersive environments used for gamers, product designers, and architects. However, there are myriad possibilities for VR/AR technology in the healthcare sector, including medical education, image-guided treatment, the treatment of neuropsychological conditions, and visual impairment, as well as use in rehabilitation, which have fueled the need for this technology across the healthcare industry. As a result, the development of VR/AR technologies requires investment and collaboration between big tech, start-ups, and players across the entire healthcare ecosystem.”

Technology giants are increasingly moving into the healthcare space, and while tech investment in health is not new, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are increasing in value and number year-on-year, as well as the size of the players involved. Recent examples include Apple’s acquisition of Akonia Holographics, an AR smart glasses company, and the buyout of Tueo Health’s asthma monitoring start-up, both for undisclosed amounts.

Balfe concludes: “Increasing partnerships and M&A activity in the area reflect that there are huge opportunities which are yet to materialize. The future of VR/AR in healthcare will depend on collaborations and M&A, which will play a huge role over the next five years in moving this technology forward from concept to reality in the healthcare industry.”

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