Health and Science

Now you can watch surgeries live in virtual reality

Medical students and members of the public will be able to watch a live hernia surgery in 360-degree virtual reality (VR) later this week.

The surgery, which will be performed on Thursday in California, will be broadcast by GIBLIB, an online platform for doctors and medical students to share videos of lectures and surgeries.

The surgery represents another way in which VR technology will affect sectors of the economy; in this case, medicine and education.

Medical Realities

"Watching a surgery in 360-degree/virtual reality provides a fully immersive real-world operating room experience for viewers and is a game changer for surgical education," said Brian Conyer, CEO of GIBLIB, in a press release.

"We are a technology company that wants to improve the way surgeons connect globally and modernize the way surgical information is shared," he added.

The surgery will be performed by Shirin Towfigh, who explained how broadcasting a surgery in VR could benefit medical students.

"It gives med students and surgeons access to a breadth of surgeries that would have been previously out of reach because they would have needed to physically get access to the surgery," Towfigh told CNBC via email.

"Before this new technology, live streaming from an operating room was only offered from the surgeon's single point of view," she said. "Viewer's lacked the ability to dynamically pan around the room or zoom in and see the operation in detail. Now they can see the placement of tools and they see how the surgeon directs the staff throughout the procedure."

The first ever live-streamed VR operation took place in April, on a human patient with colon cancer. The surgery took place in a London hospital, and viewers were able to watch the surgery using a device such as a Samsung's Gear VR or Google Cardboard.

The surgery this week will be filmed by a 360-degree 4K camera produced by a company called 360fly. Towfigh admitted that being filmed while performing an operation can be a challenge.

"The concern is that the surgeon may be nervous or feel like he/she is being held to a high standard and any complication is not acceptable," she said. The surgeon may take shortcuts or not perform his routine, leading to mistakes, she added.

"This filming is for educational purposes, and because I previously come from the academic setting I am always in teaching mode when I operate with residents and medical students. Thursday's event will be no different. The 360fly 4K camera is easy to set up. It's smaller than a baseball and conveniently mounts to any surface," she added.

Those curious to watch the one-hour surgery can register by visiting GIBLIB's website.

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