In April 2015, Professor Shafi Ahmed, surgeon of London Royal Hospital and St Bartholomew, performed the world’s first virtual reality (VR) operation, recording and streaming live in 360 degrees to more than 55,000 people across the world, watching at home via their VR headsets on YouTube.
But Ahmed hasn't stopped there.
Speaking at the first session on the Health in Action stage at Cannes Lions Health in France last week, Ahmed talked up the latest advances of his virtual reality operation company Medical Realities, of which he is the co-founder, to a room packed full of attendees.
Surgeon claims HoloLens will speed up the training of surgeons and medical staff in the future
As panel lead Matt Lowe, Managing Partner of Search Unlimited and Director of Health Unlimited, pointed out, Ahmed is the driving force behind how medical students learn and apply innovation using the freshest technology to improve education. He introduced the surgeon to the stage, highlighting how he recently performed a live operation using Snapchat’s live spectacles, training 200 medical students in the process.
The world-famous surgeon argues that without innovation, and by just accepting health care now as the way it’s always been, it will never improve.
“The problem with healthcare and pharma, is that we are steeped in dogma and traditional – we don’t want to change. Don’t want to evolve,” Ahmed said. “We have to innovate, otherwise we’re stuffed. My point to all of you if that if you accept dogma and tradition – by tradition - you accept mediocrity. Who wants mediocrity? Nobody.”
To prove his point, Ahmed showed off his latest innovation: broadcasting the environment of an operating theater using Microsoft HoloLens, a project which he claims is “going to change the world”.
Showing off how this technology will help improve the training of medical staff across the globe, he jokingly said: "What about transporting yourself to another place, using holograms, teleportation, all that Star Trek stuff?,” explaining how the technology will not only stream the procedure in real time but thanks to some pretty high tech equipment - including hundreds of cameras to capture thousands of images of him from different angles while he operates - Ahmed said it will create a real-time avatar hologram, so in future, audiences can train by watching him in 4D.
This isn't the first time surgeons have looked to Microsoft's VR headset to improve their line of work. Last month it was revealed product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants were using the HoloLens headset as part of an Augmented Reality surgical system that equips surgeons with ‘X-ray vision’.
This, according to the firm, would make it possible for surgeons to "see inside" of a patient in real time, while operating through minimally invasive openings.