Mapping out the future of AR, ThirdEye is taking on Google and Microsoft in real-life scenarios

It takes a particular kind of chutzpah go up against the behemoths, especially when it comes to AR glasses. We already have Microsoft’s Hololens and Google Glass is being marketed as an enterprise device. But ThirdEye thinks its up for the challenge.

ThirdEye is a spin-off of a project for the Department of Defense. Stealthily, it has been making steady in-roads into the AR smart glasses and the accompanying AI software space.

The ThirdEye glasses may look like safety goggles — and they are, to some degree — but they do much more. The company’s second-gen X2 MR lets people access documents or schematics hands-free while working on a project. Live digital information can be projected onto the user’s field of view; it can also relay live images to a tablet or phone, allowing colleagues to provide guidance or oversee an activity. There’s also a low-resolution thermal sensor built into the glasses. And they’re lightweight.

The company quickly found a customer in the military, which is making use of the tech for classified things. But, ThirdEye CEO Nick Cherukuri told TechCrunch that the glasses could be used for more mundane applications, as well, like helping technicians make repairs in remote settings.  

A combat medic gets instructions via the ThirdEye glasses. Image Credits: ThirdEye

And that’s just the beginning. ThirdEye’s technology became especially important during the pandemic; the glasses allowed for clearer treatment options and diagnoses without too many people having to come into contact with each other. ThirdEye saw its opportunity and developed HIPAA-compliant telehealth AR software to go with it. 

In August 2022, the U.K.’s National Health Service launched a trial where community nurses wore the goggles when making home visits. By transcribing a patient’s visit record directly to their notes (with their consent), the company says its glasses could reduce the amount of time nurses spent focusing on paperwork rather than with their patients.

The glasses could also help to reduce the need for doctors’ appointments or even hospital admissions by allowing health care professionals to share live footage with colleagues, giving patients an opportunity to get second opinions or more detailed diagnoses. The thermal imaging sensor can be used to assess wound healing, too.

Mapping out the future of AR, ThirdEye is taking on Google and Microsoft in real-life scenarios by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch

3 views on Amazon’s $3.9B acquisition of One Medical

After it was rumored to be in play earlier this month, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that One Medical has found a new home. After a torrid public offering, the value of the American consumer healthcare and technology company had fallen below its IPO price, and it was an obvious target for the right buyer.

But after CVS left the table, it wasn’t a healthcare entity that snapped up the former venture darling, and nor was it turned into a platform play by private equity. Instead, Amazon nabbed it up in a deal that comes to around $3.9 billion. At $18 per share, One Medical is exiting the public markets with a price tag that’s higher than when it IPO’d — a win of sorts for the unprofitable company.

What should we make of the Amazon deal, though? We covered the news on TechCrunch, and TechCrunch+ dug around into what the smaller company could offer its new parent, so we’ve gathered to share a few more thoughts on the matter.

From Walter Thompson, Miranda Halpern and Alex Wilhelm, three views follow on the Amazon-One Medial transaction.

Walter Thompson: Amazon is the black hole created by the death of Main Street retail

One Medical’s CEO said his company’s acquisition by Amazon is “an opportunity to transform health care and improve outcomes.” But I interpreted the pending $3.9 billion purchase as a bright, blinking sign that the world’s largest retailer is not afraid of regulatory oversight or intervention. Amazon has moved beyond revenue generation: At this point, the company largely exists to accrete additional mass.

Digital health unicorns need a checkup

Some of digital health’s best-capitalized startups are struggling.

A string of healthcare unicorns have announced layoffs over the past few weeks, including Ro, Cerebral, Forward and Calibrate. While these companies are all targeting different corners of the healthcare world — from direct-to-consumer healthcare to virtual mental health support — the layoffs show a similar response to the macroeconomic environment.

It’s a shift in tone for the companies, many of which were valued at over $1 billion and enjoyed a massive spike in customer interest during the pandemic. For early-stage entrepreneurs, this shift brings a set of lessons on the nuances of operating in digital health. Let’s take a look.

The layoffs

Ro, which raised $150 million just months ago at a $7 billion valuation, cut 18% of its staff to “manage expenses, increase the efficiency of our organization, and better map our resources to our current strategy,” its leadership wrote in an email obtained by TechCrunch in June.

The layoff comes at a time when the company, which wants to scale DTC healthcare such as pills and mental health support, is shedding executives as well. Among others, the company has lost its COO George Koveos, GM of Ro Pharmacy, Steve Buck, and most recently, Modern Fertility co-founder Afton Vechery.

In the spring, Ro’s leadership said in an internal memo that they will put “more energy and resources toward fewer initiatives” for the remainder of Q2 and H2. “Narrowing the focus does not mean we will launch any fewer products or services for patients. In fact, we believe it will have the opposite effect. We will increase the speed of innovation for patients,” the memo said, adding that the company will build “new products for existing patients.”

This focus on growth and discipline clearly did not stop the company, which appears to still be hiring, from cutting staff to save on expenses.

Empowering a new wave of health tech startups — with data

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Spotting new trends is one of my favorite parts of my job. But I like it even more when several trends converge into a transformative wave. That’s exactly what’s happening in health tech right now, as the sector benefits not only from the rise of open data, but also from the democratization of data analytics and privacy-preserving synthetic data. Let’s explore. — Anna

Data for health tech builders

When I heard that synthetic healthcare data startup Syntegra would release free datasets with realistic-but-fake patient data, it caught my attention. Not because it was releasing open data, not because it was sharing synthetic data and not because it’s a health tech company — but because it was doing all of those things at once.

You wouldn’t be wrong to think open data is cool in itself. For instance, I loved hearing earlier this week about the launch of BigScience’s large language model, BLOOM, a free and open alternative to OpenAI’s GPT-3. But the expectation is that BLOOM will mostly be used by researchers. In contrast, the datasets made available by Syntegra and Tuva Health are meant for health tech startups.

Oracle joins Microsoft in spending big to dominate healthcare vertical

Enterprise software companies are suddenly focused firmly on healthcare. If you want proof, look at how Oracle and Microsoft both backed up trucks loaded with money to buy health tech companies this year.

At the moment, I’m compiling the top 10 M&A deals of the year, and the top two transactions are today’s $28.3 billion agreement by Oracle to buy Cerner and Microsoft’s $19.7 billion deal to buy Nuance Communications in April. That comes to just under $50 billion for two health-related companies.

Other majors are circling the health market. Amazon has been quieter about it, but over the last year, it too has been looking at healthcare, with partnerships, hirings and programs galore focused on the lucrative vertical. Google’s approach was less certain, as its healthcare vertical leader, David Feinberg, jumped in October to Cerner, the company Oracle bought this morning.

There’s lots of interest because healthcare is a simply huge market. In its announcement, Oracle quoted a popular figure that the U.S. healthcare business alone is worth $3.8 trillion annually. When you extrapolate that figure to the entire world, it’s no wonder big companies are willing to make enormous bets to get a piece of it.

But beyond the obvious market potential, what is Oracle getting for its money? We spoke to some industry experts to get their take.

Let’s start with some numbers. In its most recent earnings report, Cerner produced revenue of $1.47 billion in the third quarter, a rather modest 7% growth on a year-on-year basis. So the company wasn’t exactly growing in leaps and bounds, making it a good takeover target. If you figure Cerner was on a $6 billion run rate, that makes the deal worth just under 5x revenue, which is kind of the middle of the road these days.

The growing power of digital healthcare: 6 trends to watch in 2022

The digital healthcare revolution has already begun, and it will gain further momentum in 2022 as providers and patients look for new and better ways to improve care. Companies with strong offerings, management teams and balance sheets are poised to capture tremendous value.

Healthcare deals were hot in the first nine months in 2021. They brought in a total of $21.3 billion in venture funding across 541 deals, dwarfing the previous record of $14.6 billion set in 2020, according to Rock Health.

But startups will continue to lead the way in innovation with the use of AI, IoT and data analytics, especially with data becoming the central currency of healthcare.

Given this environment, here are six emerging trends that we’re watching closely in 2022.

Telemedicine will change how chronic conditions are treated

The pandemic showed how telemedicine could change how we think about care interactions, with virtual visits increasing almost 40 times, according to data from McKinsey. Most of these interactions were centered around acute care. But for telemedicine to achieve its full potential, it will need to engage patients more frequently, especially for certain chronic conditions.

The companies that succeed will be the ones that change the way patients interact with the healthcare system by building their entire operation around the patient experience.

Costs around chronic care are poised to rise as baby boomers age and put greater strain on the healthcare system. One chronic condition where telemedicine will play a larger role is diabetes. That’s why Teladoc Health, a leader in the space, acquired Livongo last year for $18.5 billion.

In 2022, entrepreneurs and investors are likely to expand telemedicine into more chronic care spaces like cardiology. Today, someone in the U.S. suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds, and heart disease costs the country about $219 billion a year. Telehealth offers a convenient, cost-effective way to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. For instance, with telehealth, even patients in remote or rural areas can gain access to cardiologists to get treatment without traveling far.

Overall, expect telehealth players to build their offerings across the chronic care landscape in a meaningful way in 2022.

Digital therapeutics will rewrite the future of healthcare

Digital therapeutics is perhaps the most innovative development in healthcare today and has the potential to dramatically change how care is delivered. More than any other area, this is the space where I believe we’ll see the most entrepreneurial and investment activity in the coming year.

It’s time for investors to redefine how we evaluate digital health startups

This was a record-breaking year for private investment across digital health. Investors poured billions of dollars into digital health solutions with great promise of driving innovation in a highly antiquated and inefficient industry.

While digital health has captivated the attention of investors and received validation from consumers, providers and healthcare stakeholders, early-stage entrepreneurs are being required to address the highly complicated yet mission-critical question: How can I show value and ROI?

The problems these companies are addressing are enormous, and the potential to help consumers and their families is even greater — key metrics that shouldn’t be overlooked.

With any new innovation, proving out a financially substantiated ROI case requires a combination of time and data, and digital health is no exception. In healthcare, proving ROI ultimately means calculating how much a digital health solution has either improved in outcomes or realized in cost savings for the sponsoring organization and its members.

While a claims-based ROI analysis is a crucial long-term measurement of success, industrywide innovation will require stakeholders across the ecosystem to initially think creatively and consider proxies for demonstrating value early on. Rather than allowing claims data to be an inhibitor of innovation, investors must reframe their focus on the long-term direction of the business, the value delivered for the end user and the broader impact of the company on the healthcare system as a whole.

Three key questions can help reshape measurement and investment in early-stage startups:

  • What is the problem being solved?
  • What can be measured to identify early indicators of success?
  • Why (and how) is the experience delivered so much better than the status quo?


What is the problem being solved?

Digital health solutions are solving some of the biggest challenges facing our society today. Take access to mental health care, for example. During the COVID-19 pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder.

The next healthcare revolution will have AI at its center

The global pandemic has heightened our understanding and sense of importance of our own health and the fragility of healthcare systems around the world. We’ve all come to realize how archaic many of our health processes are, and that, if we really want to, we can move at lightning speed. This is already leading to a massive acceleration in both the investment and application of artificial intelligence in the health and medical ecosystems.

Modern medicine in the 20th century benefited from unprec­edented scientific breakthroughs, resulting in improvements in every as­pect of healthcare. As a result, human life expectancy increased from 31 years in 1900 to 72 years in 2017. Today, I believe we are on the cusp of another healthcare revolution — one driven by artificial intelligence (AI). Advances in AI will usher in the era of modern medicine in truth.

Over the coming decades, we can expect medical diagnosis to evolve from an AI tool that provides analysis of options to an AI assistant that recommends treatments.

Digitization enables powerful AI

The healthcare sector is seeing massive digitization of everything from patient records and radiology data to wearable computing and multiomics. This will redefine healthcare as a data-driven industry, and when that happens, it will leverage the power of AI — its ability to continuously improve with more data.

When there is enough data, AI can do a much more accurate job of diagnosis and treatment than human doctors by absorbing and checking billions of cases and outcomes. AI can take into account everyone’s data to personalize treatment accordingly, or keep up with a massive number of new drugs, treatments and studies. Doing all of this well is beyond human capabilities.

AI-powered diagnosis

I anticipate diagnostic AI will surpass all but the best doctors in the next 20 years. Studies have shown that AI trained on sizable data can outperform physicians in several areas of medical diagnosis regarding brain tumors, eye disease, breast cancer, skin cancer and lung cancer. Further trials are needed, but as these technologies are deployed and more data is gathered, the AI stands to outclass doctors.

We will eventually see diagnostic AI for general practitioners, one disease at a time, to gradually cover all diagnoses. Over time, AI may become capable of acting as your general practitioner or family doctor.

How to establish a health tech startup advisory board

When you enter the health tech industry as a new startup, an advisory board is a crucial foundational step. A board can guide you through industry-specific nuances, help you make important decisions and prove your legitimacy to investors looking for a strong industry background.

An advisory board will be able to give you strategic insights about both your company and the wider healthcare and technology industries.

In my experience of raising capital, the unpredictable financial situation at the beginning of the pandemic meant we nearly lost our $2 million round, but came through with a committed $250,000, which we used to bring in about $500,000 in revenue.

Something that helped this process was building our advisory board and starting small — we didn’t go for all of healthcare but instead focused on two healthcare verticals. This allowed us to prove our concept, build case studies and win contracts with specific teams in our customers’ companies.

It pays off to stay focused and prove your worth so that your advisory board members can champion you in niche markets, with the potential to expand in the future. For this reason, it’s important to identify the main intention behind your board, and exactly who should be on it.

Who to recruit

Three to five people is an ideal starting point for an advisory board, depending on the size and stage of your company. In health tech, you need more than just the healthcare perspective — you also need the insight of those who have already grown technology companies, perhaps outside of the industry. Our company’s board is an even split of two healthcare and two technology advisers, and, ideally, you want to find a fifth who is well versed in both industries.

It pays off to stay focused and prove your worth so that your advisory board members can champion you in niche markets, with the potential to expand in the future.

An M.D., a Ph.D. from a respected institution or a thought leader in your relevant field of healthcare is the most important asset to an advisory board. These are the highly decorated physicians who have strong connections and act as a reference for their peers.

They provide instant credibility for your company, help you get into the minds of both patients and healthcare providers, and can outline how various health systems work.