AR/VR metaverse to improve mental health: World Economic Forum emerging technologies report

As a World Economic Forum platform partner, Frontiers is collaborating with the Forum on the 2023 edition of its annual emerging technologies report. Chosen by an international panel of experts, the list of top ten emerging technologies included in the report were selected from nearly 100 contenders based on criteria including novelty, applicability, depth, and power. 

Credit: Frontiers

AR/VR metaverse to improve mental health 

Mental health is widely acknowledged as one of the most pressing issues of our time. Although excessive screen and social media use have been associated with decreased mental wellbeing, AR and VR metaverse spaces are also being used to help combat the mental health crisis. This area of innovation has been selected as one of the WEF’s top ten emerging technologies this year. 

In considering the role the metaverse could play in mental health care, Corinna Lathan of the World Economic Forum report’s steering committee remarked: “As the mental health crisis continues to escalate, leveraging the metaverse holds immense potential for addressing this pressing public health issue. The metaverse can provide a continuum of mental healthcare services, which can both benefit patients and drive the advancement of this transformative virtual space.” 

The metaverse, which includes virtual shared spaces enhanced with augmented or virtual reality, has potential to support multiple aspects of mental health care. Gaming platforms and non-invasive technologies like electrode-containing headsets are currently being explored as potential mental health treatments. 

Mel Slater, field chief editor of Frontiers in Virtual Reality, one of the journals supporting the project, explained:  “Over the past three decades, virtual reality’s role in mental health therapy has been a subject of great interest, which resonates closely with the mission of the journal Frontiers in Virtual Reality. It’s conceivable that the advent of the metaverse could amplify the ongoing mental health crisis, through factors like addiction or the psychological impact of harassment. On the other hand, the metaverse presents a powerful mechanism for extensive mental health treatment. For instance, it could enable millions of individuals to conveniently access automated therapy.” 

As a result of the journal team’s involvement in the emerging technologies report, they are working towards a new research topic focused specifically on this subject. 

About the emerging technologies report 

For the first time this year the emerging technologies report incorporates “impact fingerprint” survey data offering a more in-depth analysis of the technology’s predicted impact on people, planet, prosperity, industry, and equity over coming years. The academics surveyed were selected from Frontiers’ network of scientific journal editors, while industry leaders were selected from the Forum’s Innovator Communities.  

Frontiers’ chief executive editor Frederick Fenter, who has spearheaded the publisher’s collaboration on the report, said: “This report is an important interface between researchers working at the forefront of science and the leaders who need to understand their work. It has been particularly inspiring to collaborate with the Forum in developing new features to enhance the report’s impact and consolidate its position as an essential resource across research, industry and policy making.” 

To facilitate deeper engagement with the emerging technologies, Frontiers has also co-curated transformation maps for each technology. These are hosted on the Forum’s strategic intelligence platform, where readers can learn more about the key issues of each technology and how it connects to other topics on the global agenda as well as find the latest articles on the topic from trusted sources. 

About Frontiers  

Frontiers is the 3rd most-cited and 6th largest research publisher. We publish groundbreaking discoveries by the world’s top experts. Scientists empower society and our mission is to accelerate scientific discovery by making science open. We place the researcher at the center of everything we do and enable the research community to develop the solutions we need to live healthy lives on a healthy planet. Featuring custom-built technology, artificial intelligence, and rigorous quality standards, our research articles have been viewed more than 1.9 billion times, reflecting the power of research that is open for all.

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