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On April 14, London-based Medical Realities became the first in the world to have performed a virtual reality 360-degree live stream of a surgery on a cancer patient to anyone who had a VR headset--be it an Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, or Google Cardboard--and had downloaded the companion app on their iOS and Android devices.

"For the first time, you were in an operating theater when an operation was taking place ... and it was as if you were inside the operating theater right next door to the surgeon doing the operation," explained Steve Dann, co-founder of Medical Realities, in a recent phone interview. "And you could look around. You could see the anesthetist to the left of you, and you could see there were nurses and other doctors in the room as well."

Other than wowing people all over the world--including viewers in America and as far away as Hong Kong--the goal is educational.

"The surgeon operating is a training surgeon and he is talking through exactly what he is doing, because [the experience] is designed to be seen primarily by trainee surgeons to actually find out what's it like to be in an operating theater and experience what it's like to be standing next door to the surgeon when he is dong the operation."

(Dann will be a featured speaker focusing on how virtual reality is being used in medicine at the MD&M East conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, June 14-16 in New York City.)

Live streaming in virtual reality is not exactly a walk in the park. In regular 360-degree virtual reality, creation cameras record images and then those images are stitched together seamlessly in post-production, Dann explained. When you are doing it live, it calls for separate cameras and a separate set up altogether.

"There's absolutely no delay in what the camera is seeing and what the people are seeing via their headset," Dann said.

But Medical Realities wants to take this sort of training a step further to create a whole suite of VR surgical training tools. For that, gamification tools will be deployed in computer generated imagery (CGI).

"We can make the surgeon or nurse or anesthetist do what we want and we can actually introduce other things which we normally can't do when live streaming, which is introduce complications into the operation," he said. "What will the surgeon do when the blood pressure suddenly drops or the heart fails. Becoming a surgeon is not only knowing technically how to do the operation, but also it's how to handle crisis points inside the operation when you discover something you didn't expect to find."

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(Dann will be a featured speaker focusing on how virtual reality is being used in medicine at the MD&M East conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, June 14-16 in New York City.)

Video Credit: Medical Realities

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