Technology

Neurotech company to use Magic Leap 2 for vertigo

Magic Leap announced Tuesday that it is giving four healthcare partners early access to its next-gen augmented reality headset, including neurotechnology company SyncThink. With the new partnership, the company is interested in tackling vestibular disorders, which cause vertigo, SyncThink chief clinical officer Scott Anderson told me. The edge.

SyncThink has been working with Magic Leap for a few years now, says Anderson. Now it’s expanding that relationship to bring Magic Leap 2 into the neurology health space and collaborate on clinical trials, he says. SyncThink already has FDA approval for an eye-tracking VR device that helps diagnose concussion. Changes in eye movements have also been linked to vestibular disorders.

Upgrades to the camera and sensors in the Magic Leap 2 headset allow SyncThink to detect abnormal eye movements that can cause or exacerbate dizziness, Anderson says. “We need high-fidelity cameras and sensors that can track at a medical level, not a consumer level,” he says. That affects the accuracy of the tools SyncThink can build. The company is initially working on tools that can diagnose vestibular disorders, but Anderson says he thinks they could eventually develop VR-based treatments for those disorders as well.

Digital tools for treating disease are becoming more common and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated their adoption. Early in the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed some guidelines, giving patients greater access to products under development. The Magic Leap announcement and its new relationships with healthcare companies come this fall on the heels of the first FDA approvals for VR-based therapies: one to treat lazy eye in children and a second for chronic pain.

More and more virtual and augmented reality companies like Magic Leap are moving toward healthcare as part of that digital health trend, Anderson says. And that has made it easier for companies like SyncThink to find the hardware they need to develop new tools. In the past five years, many VR equipment manufacturers have begun moving away from gaming and esports and towards industries such as healthcare or the military (which Magic Leap says is also interested). The companies interested in healthcare have started to pay attention to the kinds of features that are important for medical applications and incorporate those features into their devices, he says.

“Even going back five years, we had to buy ready-made VR devices and send them to Germany and have infrared sensors installed,” says Anderson. “Now everyone is learning very quickly the importance of specific types of positions that are attractive to sectors such as healthcare.”