Extended Reality and the Future of Healthcare


(This is part one of a four-part series on how extended reality (XR) is revolutionizing the future of healthcare.)

Extended reality technology (XR) will be the future of healthcare. The use of XR in the healthcare industry is already decreasing costs, increasing access, and improving results for people around the world. The convergence of academic research trends, big moves by key corporate players, and mainstream acceptance of the technologies demonstrate that a future where healthcare is shaped by XR is inevitable. However, whether your organization will benefit from these changes is far from inevitable.

XR will force a realignment of the existing beliefs about where healthcare takes place, who provides the care, and who makes money in the process. As healthcare extends out of the hospital and the doctor’s office and into people’s homes (and the virtual world’s yet to be created), the borders of industries will be dissolved as entertainment, wellness, med-tech, social media, and hardware companies all compete for a piece of the healthcare pie. To help ensure you and your organization get a piece or keep the profitable piece of that pie you already have, we wrote this series as a guide to the future of XR in healthcare.

A quick note on the terminology used here:


Guides a user through a completely virtual environment that is separate from the material world. Headsets and hand-held controllers are often used to facilitate the experiences.


Inserts digital objects into the material world, so the user can interact with the virtual world and the material world at the same time.


Includes the spectrum of experiences that make it difficult to distinguish between the virtual and physical world. This includes devices that can be controlled by voice, physical gestures, or eye movements.


The desire to create scenarios that are difficult, expensive, or impossible to recreate in the material world led to VR first gaining popularity in training situations. The US Air Force started using flight simulators in 1982,[i] and NASA has been using VR since the early nineties.[ii]

Once viewed as miraculous innovations, augmented reality has gained widespread public acceptance. Things like the yellow line indicating the first down marker for televised football games demonstrate how AR technology has just become part of the background fabric of life.

In recent years, the growing popularity of VR gaming has indicated that the general public is ready and able to use and build their own AR and VR experiences. The viral popularity of Pokémon Go thrust AR into the public consciousness, and Snapchat filters have put AR tools in the hands of millions of people whether they recognized it as such or not. Today a plethora of platforms, such as BRIOVR and Sumerian by Amazon, exist where people can build their own VR experiences and apps without even knowing how to code.[iii]

As XR experiences have gained mainstream popularity within the entertainment industry, academic research has been heading in another direction. Research advancing VR was originally unique to disciplines within the realm of computer science, but in a 2018 study analyzing all the VR related academic articles published between 2011 and 2016, healthcare related disciplines represented over 40% of all academic articles regarding VR. Healthcare was the largest and fastest growing area of VR research, even more than either computer science and engineering.[i]

The growing mountain of academic research legitimizing the medical applications of VR and the increasing accessibility of VR hardware and software has created the perfect storm for XR experiences to shape the future of healthcare.

To ensure our clients are on the winning side of history, here at Worrell we have doubled down on our XR capabilities and are currently designing XR experiences for clients ranging from medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers to hospital systems and insurers. If you want to make sure your company is one of the players shaping the future of healthcare, reach out to see how our XR solutions can help you solve your most difficult problems.


[i] Cipresso, et al. (2018). The Past, Present, and Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality Research: A Network and Cluster Analysis of Literature. Retrieved from:

[ii] Institute for Human Caring. (2019) Child of Earth. Retrieved from:

[iii] Tripapina, I. (2019) Creating VR Content With Zero Coding Skills. Retrieved from: