Like a line of rappers before him, Arabian Prince, a founding member of the groundbreaking group N.W.A., is wading into the virtual-reality world — only this time, with a twist.
Unlike counterparts like Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man who are using the metaverse as a gateway to exclusive entertainment and gaming experiences, Arabian Prince, born Kim Renard Nazel, wants to use the digital world for more than a form of escapism: He’s looking to create a “photo-realistic, digital twin” of the U.S. health-care system — one where patients can interact with doctors, get prescriptions, and obtain feedback on care more easily, quickly, and cheaply than in real life.
“We didn’t want to do something that looks like the other metaverses, that looks very cartoony,” Prince told MarketWatch via phone on Monday. “And we knew with health care, you have to be serious about it. You can’t have somebody that looks like Luigi from Mario Brothers talking to you as a doctor.”
A self-described nerd for technology, Prince, who grew up in Compton, California, taught himself how to code and use computers from the ages of 14-16, in order to program and produce electronic hip-hop and dance music. He then turned visual effects into a second career while still in N.W.A. Now 56 and living in Marina del Rey, he says he’s using Nvidia Corp.’s NVDA, -3.23% 3-D platform Omniverse and Epic Games Inc.’s Unreal Engine to build the first medical metaverse, known as MdDao, which was unveiled in its infant stage on Wednesday.
In an email, Richard Kerris, vice president of Nvidia’s Omniverse Platform Development, said: “We have been speaking with Arabian Prince about his project and their plans to use Omniverse for building their virtual world. It’s not a partnership as of now, it’s first about working together. We’re excited about his project.” Meanwhile, Epic Games spokeswoman Elka Looks said the company has “no knowledge of this initiative.”
Prince estimates it could take up to eighth months to a year for the platform to be fully ready. He envisions a future in which the only times anyone would need to go to a hospital is for surgery or a hands-on exam. By creating what he calls “digital twins” of health-care organizations and portals connecting patients to doctors, consultations could be shifted into the digital world. Patients would get their questions answered by real-life doctors privately or, if one isn’t available, talk to a digital avatar that would take down information and relay it. Meanwhile, patients could also get input on care from a broader, public group of members.
Investors of all stripes, not just celebrities, are rushing for a piece of the metaverse — also known as Web 3.0, or the next generation of the Internet, where non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are used to create an alternative reality — which may be worth $8 trillion to $13 trillion by 2030, according to an estimate by Citigroup Inc. C, +0.34%. Researchers at JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPM say the metaverse could also foreshadow “a paradigm shift in human behavior.”
More than a few celebrity-endorsed NFT endeavors have already flamed out, though, appearing as just quick-profit schemes that take advantage of their supporters’ pocketbooks. Prince is well-aware of the skepticism and says what makes his project different is that it’s based on something that already exists: the U.S. health-care system.
“I’m doing this to give connected services,” he said. “There’s a lot of places — people in rural communities, people in the inner cities — that don’t have health care, that don’t have connectivity. But one thing pretty much everybody has is a phone. If we can make it so that you can interact and get health care directly from your smartphone — that’s kinda where we’re going with this.”
Prince has “a great vision since most people in the U.S. would like to see health care reimagined. Although I would skeptically say it’s a 10- to 15-year vision, I wouldn’t discount it at this stage.”— Nick Casares of PolyientX
Indeed, South Korea’s Fount Investment Co., which operates the Fount Metaverse ETF MTVR, says the metaverse could be health care’s “new frontier” since elements of the Internet’s next generation, such as augmented and virtual reality, are already used by medical schools.
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