It’s only a matter of time before robots replace doctors in the operation theatre, according to cancer specialist virtual reality surgery innovator Shafi Ahmed.
Ahmed is a leading supporter of virtual and augmented reality within operation theatres.
In April 2016 he became the first surgeon to live-stream a surgical procedure in virtual reality, with millions of people globally streaming him remove a tumour from the colon of a patient in his 70s.
But this isn’t a new form of bloody entertainment – Ahmed expectations that virtual reality can revolutionise the way surgeons are trained, especially in the developing world.
Over five billion people worldwide cannot access secure surgery, according to the Lancet Commission.
To overcome this, “we need to train 2.2 million extra surgeons,” Ahmed informed the audience at WIRED Health.
After centuries of training surgeons in crowded operating theatres, Ahmed thinks that virtual and augmented reality can be used to train hundreds of thousands of students simultaneously.
All trainee surgeons need to take part in VR surgery is a 3G network and an inexpensive Google Cardboard.
The virtual reality surgery put students from countries that usually suffer from poor access to training right in the middle of one of the world’s leading hospitals, “Surgery is all about how in you are in the theatre,” Ahmed suggested.
The next step forward in medical training programs, Ahmed said, is more sophisticated, and cheaper, surgery simulation equipment. Haptic feedback technology is reaching the stage where a student surgeon will be able to pick up a virtual blade and feel the sensation of holding it – and operating – in real life. “This virtual simulation will be the most explicit yet, and the best immersion we can achieve, within the next two to three years” he concludes.