It is hard to keep up with technological advances and the social structures that emerge from the Internet with its network of connected devices. During my nursing education career, I used the text-based Internet of the 1990s, thankful for the dial-up connection to the library. I was thrilled with the emergence of interactive Internet 2.0, rich with audio and video for teaching and engagement. Now, we have a new advancement, the Metaverse, an immersive virtual environment where individuals can enter to learn. In this column, I describe the Metaverse, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) and their application to nursing education.
For many people in the United States, access to information from the Internet is available on cell phones or connected devices and computers every minute of the day. People with this ubiquitous access can make data-informed decisions about their health, well-being, and many other aspects of daily life. In nursing education, we use these same technologies, along with specialized ones such as virtual clinical simulations and high-fidelity simulations in laboratory settings, to develop students’ clinical or diagnostic reasoning. A growing trend in nursing education is using AR or VR technology to enhance student learning. The AR technologies add a layer of digital information on top of the physical environment in real time. VR technologies provide users with a sensory experience in a virtual world that mimics reality or creates a fantasy world. In VR experiences, people use headsets, gloves, and other devices to engage their senses, including sight, touch, hearing, and smell (Metarri, 2022).
The technologies of today have the capabilities needed to create an augmented experience. These include a ubiquitous Internet of Things (connected devices), sensor-based physiological monitoring of humans, and AR and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies combined to receive and send information in the natural environment. If these technologies could be combined in a meaningful and unobtrusive way, nursing education would genuinely step into Internet 3.0, the Metaverse.
To speculate further, I want to introduce you to Louis Rosenberg, PhD, CEO and chief scientist of Unanimous AI. Rosenberg has more than 30 years of experience developing and testing AR and VR systems. He writes about AR, VR, and the Metaverse based on his understanding of the historical roots of the current technology; the social, ethical, and privacy concerns; and the trajectory of the technology.
Rosenberg describes one vision of the Metaverse in 2030 that seems too futuristic, even for me (Rosenberg, 2022). It is a world experienced by people using contact lenses with AR technology. In Rosenburg’s vision of the Metaverse, people wearing the AR contact lens can alter their home and work environments to suit their aesthetic preferences. An interactive guide, created using AI, provides just-in-time information and adjusts its communication based on the physiological data from the body sensors of its users. Rosenberg sums up his vision by saying, “I’m convinced that augmented reality, enabled by lightweight eyewear, will create an AR Metaverse that transforms our lives, replacing phones and desktops as our primary interface to digital content” (Rosenberg, 2022). Interested readers can read the full article at https://medium.com/predict/metaverse-2030-ee59e4d4010d.
Could there be a time when students are in the Metaverse in nursing laboratories and clinical experiences? Maybe. Nurse educators are currently conducting research studies to examine the effects of AR on student learning (Bliss et al., 2022; Kim et al., 2021; Menon et al., 2022). Though the researchers used small samples, these pilot studies have shown that AR can enhance students’ cognitive and psychomotor performance. However, more research is needed to quantify learning outcomes and understand the cost-effectiveness of such technologies. More developments in AR and VR will be required before the Metaverse is fully operational for clinical education.
Bliss D. Z., Becker A. J., Gurvich O. V., Bradley C. S., Olson E. T., Steffes M. T., Flaten C., Jameson S., Condon J. P. (2022). Projected augmented reality (P-AR) for enhancing nursing education about pressure injury: A pilot evaluation study. Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing
, 49(2), 128–136. 10.1097/WON.0000000000000858
Kim S. K., Lee Y., Yoon H., Choi J. (2021). Adaptation of extended reality smart glasses for core nursing skill training among undergraduate nursing students: Usability and feasibility study. Journal of Medical Internet Research
, 23(3), e24313. 10.2196/24313
Menon S., Holland C., Farra S., Wischgoll T., Stuber M. (2022). Augmented reality in nursing education—A pilot study. Clinical Simulation in Nursing
, 65, 57–61. 10.1016/j.ecns.2022.01.007