April 14, 2016 8:50 am

World’s first virtual reality surgery to be broadcast live Thursday

The world’s first virtual reality surgery (VR) will be broadcast live Thursday


The world’s first virtual reality (VR) surgery will be broadcast live Thursday, as surgeons, medical students and VR enthusiasts watch Dr. Shafi Ahmed remove a tumor from a colon cancer patient’s bowel.

The routine surgery will be performed on a patient in his seventies. But unlike other cancer surgeries, Ahmed – cancer specialist and founder of virtual and augmented reality firm Medical Realities – will remove a tumor from the man’s colon under the watchful eye of a 360-degree camera mounted above the operating table.

That camera will broadcast the entire two-hour surgery, in real time, in high-definition and livestream it in virtual reality to Android and iOS apps.

“World class education will be available to anyone across the world as we stream in 360 degree high-definition from within a surgical theatre in this world first,” reads the Medical Realities website.

“Members of the public, students and surgeons alike can view the surgery on their own devices, and through the use of Google Cardboard entirely immerse themselves in the operating environment.”

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Ahmed believes virtual reality is the future of medical education. In 2013, he was part of the team that used Google Glass to livestream a liver cancer surgery from a surgeon’s point-of-view.

READ MORE: Google Glass goes under the knife; device used to live stream surgery

His company, Medical Realities, is also working on software that will allow him to teach in remote regions using similar virtual reality software.

Although the surgery is described as “routine,” there will be a one-minute delay on the broadcast in case of any complications.

“The operation isn’t very risky, but if there’s a major complication I’ll stop [the stream] immediately,” Ahmed told Wired.

“But it’s also important that people who are training in medicine see problems. There is no perfect operation, ever. If we have some complications, you have to see how to deal with them.”

Anyone can watch the livestream on the Medical Realities website, or in virtual reality using Google Cardboard and the Medical Realities app for iOS or Android.

The surgery will start at 8 a.m. ET.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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