First-ever Virtual Reality Operation Live-Streamed Worldwide

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UK doctor turns the operating room into an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience using special cameras to live-stream a 360-degree view of a surgical procedure to users worldwide.

Dr. Shafi Ahmed, a cancer surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, who is pioneering VR surgery, broadcast the first live surgery – in virtual reality April 14.

It’s as close as you can get to replicating it,” Ahmed told ABC News in a previous interview on VR capabilities.


The operation was performed on a British man in his 70s, with colon cancer, and was live-streamed to thousands of medical students (and other interested persons) watching on VR headsets such as £10 Google Cardboard and their smartphones.

Ahmed, a laparoscopic and colorectal surgeon, has worked with his team to create “Virtual Surgeon,” a pilot program that would allow medical students to practice surgeries inspired by actual operations before setting foot into an operating room.

Ahmed showed Thursday how the training program can work by filming an actual operation with a 360-degree camera and streaming the footage to medical students and interested users.

The operation, which streamed worldwide, was broadcast a minute or so behind the surgery in case of any unforeseen complications.


Viewers were able to zoom in on Dr. Ahmed’s movements and walk around the theatre to see the operation from different angles.

Students at a different hospital nearby that had been provided with VR headsets were able to help Dr. Ahmed throughout the surgery from their seminar rooms.

I believe that virtual reality and augmented reality can revolutionise surgical education and training, particularly for developing countries that don’t have the resources and facilities of NHS hospitals,” said Dr. Ahmed. “I am very excited about the expansion of this program to bring more medical learning to the world.”

This ground-breaking technology allows viewers to stream surgical videos of doctors and professors from top medical programs using only a smartphone with 3G or 4G connectivity.

Surgery Using Google Glass

Dr. Ahmed became the first doctor to live-stream an operation while wearing Google Glass back in 2014, and has experimented with 360 degree cameras before.


The live surgery is the work of a partnership between Barts Health, Medical Realities, Dr. Ahmed’s healthcare company that specializes in VR and augmented reality (AR) training, and Mativision, a company that live- streams VR and 360 degree video.

Viewers around the world were able to tune in through the Virtual Reality in the Operating Room app on iOS and Android, and on Medical Realities’ website.

Medical Realities aims to reduce the cost of medical training by utilizing new technology such as virtual reality, enabling more accessible and affordable training.

In my vision, you’ll have a virtual body in front of you, you get haptic gloves, you pick up a scapel and you feel it normally, you make a cut, you see the incision, it’s all realistic,” Ahmed said in a recent interview.


Ahmed believes that in a few years from now, people will be able to use VR to carry out operations and to train themselves through virtual operations.

He also notes that even this (virtual operation) is merely a first step to what he calls the “virtual surgeon”.

Ahmed explains this as a project that involves shifting from live-capture VR to full computer-rendered simulations of surgical operations and eventually, reactive virtual patients and gloves that provide tactile feedback.

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