FDA announced Thursday it will host a meeting March 5 to discuss virtual and augmented reality in medicine.
The attention from the Center for Devices and Radiological Health to the class of emerging technologies comes as companies find a range of applications for extended reality in healthcare, including surgical training and planning and therapy for pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The agency plans to discuss how to better evaluate hardware, develop standards, and assess challenges for devices falling under the umbrella of extended reality in hopes of accelerating product development.
Virtual and augmented reality devices, grouped under the umbrella term extended reality, first made headlines in the consumer sector. However, healthcare was quick to spot the potential of the technology, leading to explorations of its use in areas such as surgeon training.
FDA's meeting notice laid out a preliminary agenda featuring speakers from institutions like Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, and tech companies like Facebook, LG, Microsoft and Sony.
The latter list and their competitors are driving forward the sensors, screens and other pieces of technology that make up extended reality systems. Yet, while these companies are key enablers of medical applications, other organizations are largely responsible for developing those use cases.
FDA is looking to startups to provide insights into the evaluation challenges faced by companies that are developing medical applications for virtual and augmented reality. Attendees of the meeting will hear from companies such as Limbix and OpticSurg, which are respectively using the technology to treat mental illness and provide surgeons with hands-free access to patient data during procedures. Other startups represented include appliedVR, SentiAR, Medvis, Holoeyes and CognifiSense.
Philips appears to be the only major medtech represented on the current agenda, but others have expressed clear interest in extended reality opportunities.
Intuitive Surgical, for example, won FDA clearance last year for augmented reality product IRIS last year. It's designed to help surgeons before and during procedures by showing them 3D images of patient anatomy. At Medtronic, each of its divisions is reportedly experimenting with extended reality devices, for a total of more than 80 projects across the company.