Step in the operating room, wherever you are in the world

Story highlights

  • A virtual reality surgery took place last week at the Royal London Hospital
  • Nearly 55,000 people tuned in worldwide to watch the surgeon conduct the procedure, which lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

(CNN)All you need is a headset and smartphone to enter a virtual world of gaming, movies, travel -- and now surgery. Health care company Medical Realities is using virtual reality to transport people directly into an operating room to watch surgeons as they operate.

The first surgery of this kind took place last week at the Royal London Hospital, when Dr. Shafi Ahmed gave global access to his operating theater as he removed cancerous cells from a 70-year-old British man with colon cancer.
    "People can see how the whole theater works," said Ahmed, a consultant cancer surgeon at the Royal London Hospital and co-founder of Medical Realities. His company is stepping away from the usual realms of entertainment for VR and using it to develop training materials for medical students worldwide.
      Nearly 55,000 people tuned in worldwide to watch the surgeon conduct the procedure, which lasted two hours and 40 minutes.
      "Once you take away the wow factor, I see a teaching medium that can be used," Ahmed said.
      In 2014, Ahmed became the first doctor to use augmented reality during a live stream of his surgery. wearing Google Glass and communicating with the people viewing. He sees both forms of reality as means to educate people. "They have different ways to reach people," said Ahmed.
      VR is about full immersion, making direct communication more complicated, but Ahmed has set this as his next goal. "This scales up surgical training and education," he said.

      What you see

      The idea of last week's event was to make people feel like they were in the operating room, seeing and hearing as a nurse or clinician would on the team, with options to change their viewpoint and zoom in and out of what they would like to focus on.
      "It gives direct access to operations," said Kapellos.