Can metaverse lead the way in bringing back Ayurveda’s glory?

Wearable technologies would mean patients can experience a personalised digital assistant (or an avatar) that would help in the initial diagnosis and support the patient follow treatment plan

G Krishna Kumar Dr Lakshmi N PrasadUpdated: Sunday, October 23, 2022, 12:26 PM IST
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The formation of the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) five years ago has provided the right impetus for undertaking interdisciplinary research on the validation of the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda using modern tools and technologies. How can advanced technologies and more specifically metaverse be used in delivering high-quality Ayurvedic care? Before we delve into this, a quick look at how Ayurveda has been accepted over the years. 

Ayurveda is based on the concept that a disease is caused due to an imbalance in the Tridoshas (Life forces) – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The idea of universal interconnectedness, the body's constitution (prakriti), Tridoshas, and the concept of ‘agni’ (fire) form the basis of Ayurvedic treatment. Ayurveda’s approach is holistic by promoting lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. 

Ayurvedic medication has worked well in cases involving chronic respiratory infection, arthritis, and headache. Instead of just treating the symptoms, Ayurveda tries to address the root cause. Ayurveda leads in the treatment of jaundice, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and even auto-immune disorders. 

A new trend is emerging where people are turning towards Ayurveda for gestational health issues and neonatal care. This can be attributed to Ayurveda’s approach towards both the physical and psychological development of the newborn. 

Ayurvedic immunity boosters have helped in reducing mortality during the Covid pandemic. A recent AIIA report shows how Ayurvedic treatment can be an effective and safe solution in the case of drug addiction. The report states that the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) score decreased from 22 to three after three weeks of treatment.

Over the past 20-25 years, the awareness and acceptance of Ayurveda, as a mainstream form of medical intervention, have improved significantly in India. It is not surprising that the number of colleges offering graduate degrees - Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) has increased from 240 in 2011 to over 450 now. 

Technology adoption in Ayurveda 

With the availability of affordable phones, tablets and low-cost internet, digital awareness has been on the rise. With technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual reality(VR), Alternate Reality (AR) and metaverse, a highly dependable healthcare system can be created with Ayurveda.

Ayurveda has lost out on the latest technological advancements witnessed in the allopathic medical field. But even now, by adopting the newest technologies, Ayurveda-based diagnosis and treatment can be improved. 

The good news is that several competing products are either in advanced research or in pilot usage. For example, the automatic classification of plants/herbs using computer vision and Machine learning (ML) algorithms can help in improving productivity. Geo-tagging (for identifying accurate location) can be used for the conservation of medicinal plants. 

Ayurveda offers a personalised treatment. Each person is different with unique physiological attributes. The ‘nadi parikshap (or pulse examination) using sensors and AI can help in identifying the patient’s Prakriti and thereby also understand the ailments. This can reduce human errors in diagnosis to a large extent. Companies are offering Ayurvedic assessment and treatment using mobile apps. The government should update the flagship Aarogya Setu app with Ayurvedic aspects. 

Importantly, the government’s initiatives to digitise Ayurvedic text are a huge contribution to supporting research on Ayurveda. For example, an easy-to-use digital version of Charaka Samhita has been created by The National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage (NIIMH).

Metaverse

Technologies like AI, ML, and VR would become the core components of Metaverse. Today, we live a distinct physical and digital life and the metaverse will blur the two lives. Metaverse is a simulated digital environment where people can interact/collaborate in real-time and the whole experience would be natural and intuitive. In the future, the availability of wearable technologies and sensors would mean patients can experience a personalised digital assistant (or an Avatar) that would help in the initial diagnosis and support the patient follow Ayurvedic medication, diet and exercise routine suggested by the doctor. The doctor can monitor the patients remotely and suggest changes.

Student education can be transformed with an immersive learning experience with rich visual aspects and achieve precision learning. Medical schools in the US are experimenting with AR to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities. 

Reports suggest gamification to be a key differentiator in the metaverse and would provide a new way of connecting the healthcare ecosystem.

Government should embark on a long-term technology strategy for Ayurveda to create a research focussed ecosystem with AIIA, leading Ayurvedic institutions and premiere technology institutions like IISc, and IITs. 

Incentivising the start-up ecosystem to bring advanced technologies for Ayurveda can spur collaboration and innovation in precision diagnosis and treatment. How about a five-year target for a functional metaverse for Ayurvedic healthcare workers? Technology alone can lead the way in bringing back the glory of Ayurveda. 

(G Krishna Kumar is a Bengaluru-based ICT Professional and columnist, and Dr Lakshmi N Prasad is an Ayurveda practitioner based in Sringeri, Karnataka)

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