Brazilian MedRoom startup health edtech
Photo: MedRoom/Courtesy

MedRoom bets on the metaverse to reshape distance learning in medical schools

Part of one of the largest private education groups in Brazil, the company wants to take its virtual laboratory to colleges and hospitals throughout Latin America

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Use virtual reality to better train doctors and thus be able to reduce the number of deaths caused by medical errors. Its a plan that sounds easy to talk about, but hard to accomplish. Applying design, engineering, special effects, and scientific research, Brazilian startup MedRoom is betting it can make that promise become reality.

Founded in 2016 by entrepreneurs Vinicius Gusmão and Sandro Nhaia, the startup believes it can help doctors, teachers, and students with its virtual environments. And has drawn the attention of Ânima Educação, the fourth largest private education group in Brazil.

The edtech was acquired by Ânima in November 2020 and is now part of the group that owns Anhembi Morumbi, São Judas, and Unisul, among other private universities. Transaction values were not disclosed.

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With the acquisition, the startup will definitely set foot in both education and health, explains MedRoom co-founder and CEO, Vinicius Gusmão. And, with a consistent advantage: agility.

“We talk to more people because of the group’s network, but the biggest gain was in development pace. Not only from a technical point of view but also in the depth of discussions on how much the products actually serve for the academy. We now have a gigantic laboratory, which is the group’s faculties”, explains Gusmão.

Given the challenges and possibilities of the partnership, the company expects, still in 2021, to expand its business to other educational institutions. Currently, the company’s solution is licensed to at least 30 institutions (including hospitals and colleges) in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Paraguay.

In 2022, the goal is to also take its virtual laboratories to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies all over Latin America.

Virtual labs and hybrid learning: enter the metaverse

Edtech’s main solution is the Atrium, a virtual reality software focused on teaching anatomy, with a complete 3D model of the human body. All structures, appearances, and functioning organs were modeled with the collaboration of specialists from Hospital Albert Einstein.

In this virtual anatomy lab, students can freely examine the human body, explore each structure, isolated organs, and systems in a way never seen before, says Gusmão.

Sandro Nhaia and Vinicius Gusmão (right), founders of MedRoom. Photo: MedRoom/Courtesy

However, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the solutions offered by the startup. After all, as much as the environment developed by the company is virtual, to experience it, students had to be in a physical space.

“We had a product before the pandemic, which was an anatomy laboratory in virtual reality. It was a virtual product but based on traditional education. So we were defied to bring a new proposal: build a hybrid health education approach, our own metaverse”, says the CEO of MedRoom.

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The company is expected to launch in November a platform that goes beyond the laboratory shown by virtual reality glasses. This metaverse must be tested first in the Medicine courses of the Ânima group universities.

With the pandemic, we saw the need for students to have access to these contents at home so that they could carry out both distance learning and asynchronous learning

Vinicius Gusmão, CEO of MEdRoom

“We were able to develop and validate a hybrid teaching proposal. We built a virtual universe where we have the anatomy laboratory, and we are building clinical scenarios for patient care. And we are going to deliver a platform that students can access through their smartphones”, explains Gusmão.

Cultural challenges and expansion

Despite advances in the field of hybrid education, the CEO of MedRoom says that there is still a part of professionals that is very critical to the use of some technologies. At the end of the day, the union between technology and teaching is still far from ready.

To overcome cultural barriers — Gusmão says he has heard from doctors that ‘video games are not for teaching’ — the company focuses on gains that are easier to demonstrate, such as learning anatomy, a “keystone” of education of health.

“We used this strategy: taking advantage of the hype of virtual reality. Starting these products with virtual reality gets attention and has an instant impact. We had this discussion of what we need to build to show the value of putting technology in the health sector in a less risky way for doctors”, argues the founder of MedRoom.