The world’s first live stream of a Virtual Reality operation is taking place in London today, with thousands of medical students among those expected to watch it using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets.
The operation stream is open to all the public with a VR headset. If they download the free app “VR in OR”, they will be able to watch Dr Shafi Ahmed remove a cancerous tissue from the bowel of a male patient in real time – albeit with a one minute delay, in case of a problem – at Royal London Hospital. The operation will begin at 1pm, and last for approximately two hours.
By filming with two 360 degree cameras and multiple lenses set up in the operating theatre, viewers will feel like they are actually in the room during the operation, with the sounds recorded too to make it even feel more real.
Using VR to showcase an operation and help aspiring medical students learn is being praised as a potentially major move in the field of medicine. Simply by purchasing a cheap Google Cardboard headset, or other variations, and using a smartphone, people will be able to watch a range of demonstrations from the comfort of their own home.
This could seriously reduce the costs for medical students, who will not need to travel to the site of each operation, making “healthcare more equitable”, according to Dr Ahmed, adding that “it is actually quite cost effective”.
Dr Ahmed is no stranger to using innovative technology during his work. In 2014, he conducted a live operation while wearing Google Glass, and even responded to the students’ questions that appeared in the corner of his glasses as he operated. A lover of tech, Dr Ahmed hopes it can continue to develop and improve the healthcare sector.
He said: “In my vision, you’ll have a virtual body in front of you, you get haptic gloves, you pick up a scalpel, and you feel it normally, you make a cut, you see the incision, it’s all realistic. Ultimately, people will be able to use VR to carry out operations and train themselves through virtual operations. That’d be our endgame.”
If you do not have a headset, you can still watch the video online.
Image credit: Medical Realities/PA