Live streaming a virtual reality operation
The world's first live-streamed virtual reality operation will be carried out in a London hospital this week to improve medical student trainingMativision / Barts Health NHS Trust

Royal London Hospital will become the first hospital in the world to host a virtual reality (VR) operation conducted by a top cancer surgeon, which will be streamed live to thousands of medical students so that they can learn about surgery first hand.

Dr Shafi Ahmed, a cancer surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, is one of the foremost cancer surgeons in the UK and also the co-founder of a healthcare company called Medical Realities that is trying to improve how medical students are trained by using augmented reality (AR) and VR.

To that end, Barts has teamed up with VR and 360-degree video production technology company Mativision to live-stream an operation on a patient with colon cancer at the Royal London Hospital on Thursday 14 April at 1pm BST, filmed on two 360-degree cameras with multiple lenses.

The footage is then live-streamed to the VR in OR app using Mativision's 360-degree VR player, which is the world's only turn-key technology for the production of interactive content and experience.

During the surgery, a number of medical students at Barts will be watching the surgery using headsets from seminar rooms in Royal London Hospital, as well as at Queen Mary University of London.

"I am honoured that this patient has given permission for his experience to provide this unparalleled learning opportunity. As a champion of new technology in medicine, I believe that virtual 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 Ahmed.

"I am very excited about the expansion of this program to bring more medical learning to the world."

As long as users have a VR headset such as the £10 ($14.29) Google Cardboard or other consumer headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, Merge VR or Freefly VR, which are all under £100 and either an iPhone or an Android smartphone, anyone will be able to live-stream and remotely watch the surgery.

Users can download the VR in OR app from iTunes or Google Play, and people who do not have access to VR headsets can also stream the surgery live from the Medical Realities website.

"This is a very important milestone for Mativision as it will be the first time that our 360 and VR proprietary technology will be used for the medical vertical. It's a great example of how VR can become a powerful educational tool and extend its reach over and above entertainment," said Mativision's head of marketing and partnerships George Kapellos.

"The world is just beginning to see the possibilities of what VR can achieve and we are proud to be at the very forefront of this."