Virtual Reality Is Reshaping Medical Training and Treatment

Arthur C. Clarke, a British science fiction writer, is well known for once writing, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Consumer virtual reality is going through a rough patch as high expectations and hype have deflated somewhat, but when VR does work, it can feel a bit like magic.

At Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine Summit this week, the audience learned about fascinating virtual reality applications within a mix of medical contexts.

Here’s a look at two we found particularly interesting.

Surgical Training in Virtual Reality

Shafi Ahmed, co-founder of Virtual Medics and Medical Realities, spoke again this year at Exponential Medicine. Last year we wrote about Ahmed’s efforts to solve the huge global shortage of trained surgeons:

“According to the Lancet commission on global surgery, the surgical workforce would have to double to meet the needs of basic surgical care for the developing world by 2030. Dr. Ahmed imagines being able to train thousands of surgeons simultaneously in virtual reality.”

With this in mind, Ahmed made a splash back in 2014 when he reached 14,000 surgeons across 100 different countries by using Google Glass to stream a surgical training session. In 2016, Ahmed took this a step further by live-streaming a cancer surgery in virtual reality that was shot in 360-degree video while he removed a colon tumor from a patient.

Ahmed’s philosophy is clear. He says, “Forget one-to-one. My idea is one to many. I want to share knowledge with the masses.” To achieve this, his company Medical Realities is building the world’s first interactive VR training module for surgeons. After these successes, Ahmed began searching for other low-cost, high-tech platforms to leverage for surgical training. He landed on social media.

Last year, Ahmed used Snapchat glasses to record an operation in ten-second clips that were uploaded to his Snapchat story. It was a huge success, receiving two…

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