News: Harnessing metaverse for mental well-being: WEF report

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Harnessing metaverse for mental well-being: WEF report

A report by the World Economic Forum highlights the impact of the metaverse and virtual shared spaces in bolstering mental well-being and combating the escalating health crisis.
Harnessing metaverse for mental well-being: WEF report

Metaverse has emerged as a leading technology in 2023, securing the 5th position among the top 10 emerging technologies, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum. The report highlights a crucial finding that the impact of screen time and social media on psychological well-being is two-fold: while excessive use can diminish well-being, responsible usage can actually enhance it.

The report cites Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, addressing social media's impact on youth mental health. With near-universal social media usage among young people, there are concerns about potential harm. Interestingly, the study reveals that screen time in virtual shared spaces, known as the metaverse, can help alleviate the mental health crisis.

The study revealed that screen time in shared virtual spaces while making social connections may reverse the mental health crisis. The reason is, virtual shared spaces are digital environments where users get to interact on professional and social levels. These virtual spaces are now known as the metaverse, which offer enhanced augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR). Similar to multiple shared virtual platforms, it will also be known as multiple metaverses, differentiating in purpose and absorption. 

Prior to COVID-19, the world was already witnessing deteriorating mental health, and it further increased to unprecedented levels after that, making it favourable for metaverse-enabled mental health treatment. 

However, the world lacks mental health providers in order to meet the escalating crisis. In the United States, a public service (federal reimbursement) for tele-mental health services has been enabled to overcome this crisis. An ideal approach would involve a technology-based infrastructure centred around mental health, providing comprehensive support across prevention, diagnostics, therapy, education, and research towards this crisis.

The study revealed that mental health treatment is being aided by gaming platforms, that not only increase patient engagement but also reduces shame surrounding it. For example:

  • DeepWell Therapeutics created video games to treat depression and anxiety
  • UK-based Xbox studio Ninja Theory incorporated mental health awareness into mass-market games and plans to expand into treatment with their Insight Project
  • TRIPP created Mindful Metaverse for improving mental well-being through VR-enabled guided mindfulness and meditation 

Furthermore, maturing interface technologies could further augment social and emotional connections between distant participants. For example, Emerge Wave 1, a tabletop device that simulates the touch and enhances the social experience by using ultrasonic waves

Noninvasive neurotechnologies for providing feedback by analysing a user’s emotional state. For example, Neurable headsets measure emotions to adjust music by using electrodes.

In the future, the metaverse is expected to integrate with therapeutic neurotechnologies like direct brain stimulation, which can be used to treat intractable depression. Leveraging the metaverse for a wide range of mental healthcare needs has the potential to be mutually beneficial. Patients would experience positive results while grounding the metaverse in practical and essential applications that could drive the advancement of this evolving virtual space.

 

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Topics: Technology, Learning Technology, #HRCommunity, #HRTech, #Artificial Intelligence

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