Royal London Hospital has carried out the world’s first live stream of an operation filmed in 360-degree virtual reality (VR) with the aim of injecting cutting-edge technology into medical training.
The procedure was performed by Shafi Ahmed at 1pm on 14 April, and was recorded by a rig of cameras and streamed live to the VRinOR app, created by 360-video firm Mativision, which allows viewers to see the operation in VR.
The app is available on the Oculus Rift store, Apple App Store and Google Play, and can be used with the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard headsets so that medical students and those with a fascination for surgery can experience operations in immersive VR.
The operation was carried out on a 70-year-old patient with colon cancer, and watched in VR by students from the Royal London Hospital and Queen Mary University.
Ahmed explained that the use of VR video to capture the operation is a step towards using technology to improve the education and training of future surgeons.
“As a champion of new technology in medicine, I believe that VR and augmented reality [AR] can revolutionise surgical education and training, particularly for developing countries that don't have the resources and facilities of NHS hospitals,” he said.
Ahmed has been pushing the boundaries of technology in his surgery for some time, including the use of Google Glass and AR in a live operation two years ago.
He also co-founded Medical Realties, a healthcare company specialising in exploring how games, VR and AR can evolve medical training.
VR is still at the early stages of its rebirth some 20 years after lacklustre attempts to make it useable at scale, but the operation shows the potential for VR to be used in applications beyond consumer experiences and immersive gaming.
Examples of VR being used in businesses and other professional organisations are few and far between, but more companies are beginning to explore the potential of the technology, indicating that VR could be on the cusp of enterprise adoption.
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