New technology allows medical students worldwide to watch operations live

A British surgeon turned an operating room into a global, virtual reality experience with the idea to allow medical students to "stand in the shoes" of an experienced surgeon.

A camera is seen hovering high above the operating table at the Royal London Hospital, bringing the images of surgery to places far beyond the operating room.

It's the world's first operation to be streamed live in 360-degree video via a company called Medical Realities.

Dr. Shafi Ahmed hopes it will transform medical training worldwide.

"Well, I think in the past we've done 2D videos, which are readily available. This is going to be 360 (degree) immersive. So people around the world, using low-cost technology with a Google Cardboard or headset and a smart phone app, to access live operations and training," he said.

With students all over the world watching, the operation begins.

The surgery to remove a tumor on the colon may be routine, but for those watching, it's anything but.

Students using VR headsets and smartphones can view in any direction and zoom in on the operating theater - all as Ahmed narrates live. In addition, viewers are able to ask questions.

"I found it really great because I've been in theatres before, and it's often really difficult to have a good view of what's going on," said one student. "So, often you're pushed to the background and you can't see anything."

Ahmed believes this technology - giving others the experience of what it's really like to be in the O.R. - is just the beginning.

"In time, there'll be haptic feedback. You'll be wearing gloves for example, or bodysuits. You can touch, feel things in the virtual world and ultimately imagine a time when we have a virtual surgeon," he said. "You pop into a virtual theatre with a virtual patient, virtual instruments, into a virtual operation - before ever going to an operating theatre fully. And that learning experience will be vital. It's the most immersive simulation we can think of," he added.

The surgery was a success, and now the plan is to create a library of other surgeries shot with a 360-degree view.

The patient, a 62-year-old British man, said while it took some time for him to agree to it, he finally did, knowing the experience would benefit medical students around the world.
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