14/04/2016 09:07 BST | Updated 15/04/2017 06:12 BST

World's First Live-Streamed Virtual Reality Operation

Today experts in live streaming 360° and VR Mativision will be broadcasting live through pioneering virtual reality (VR) technology an operation on a patient with colon cancer at The Royal London Hospital. This is a world first. Thousands of medical students watching remotely though VR headsets and using their smartphones will be able to learn about the surgery first hand from one of the country's leading cancer surgeons, Dr Shafi Ahmed.

For this project, Barts Health is working in partnership with Medical Realities, a healthcare company set up by Dr Shafi Ahmed to change the future of medical training through VR and Augmented Reality (AR), and Mativision. The operation will be filmed on two 360° cameras with multiple lenses and live streamed through Mativision's revolutionary 360° and VR player to enable viewers to move around the theatre and zoom in and out of any aspect of the operation.

So what makes this live broadcast event so significant both from a technology and global health perspective?

This is going to be the first time that VR technology is going to be used in the medical space and the aim of this project is to demonstrate the vast possibilities of the technology in revolutionising surgical training and global health education.

While trainee physicians have traditionally had to settle for looking over the shoulder of a surgeon, the technology will allow users to position themselves anywhere and view the operation from all angles.

The aim of the project is to prove that VR surgeries will provide unparalleled access to new surgical learning resources for medical personnel in the developing world and at the same time to address the global inequalities in surgical health by enabling trainees and surgeons to connect and train remotely complex surgeries across the world.

From a technology stand point the project will showcase VR for what it should be used for - education.

We at Mativision believe that VR can become a powerful educational tool and extend its reach over and above entertainment, where it is mostly used today. Following this pioneering activity, the goal is to host many more VR surgeries on Mativision's 'VRinOR' App and Medical Realities website. VR surgeries are the next step from the existing traditional video-based educational tools that exist in the global health market.

The feeling of immersiveness in a VR experience can make easier what is called 'suspension of disbelief', a brain action that makes the user feel that they are actually 'there'..

The next step, following the success of the use of VR in surgery training would be to add additional components that would allow surgical users of virtual reality technology to experience touch and feel by adding gloves and interactive technology so that trainees can actually feel their way around thus creating the 'virtual surgeon'.

One of the main reasons that has contributed to the extensive use of VR is the unstoppable rise of the smartphone. In no time at all, smartphones have become the most important piece of technology in our lives. They are central to pretty much everything we do and they represent the perfect entry point for VR. Forecasts predict that the number of smartphone users will jump to 6.1 billion by 2020 (from 2.6 billion in 2014); that's a massive audience capable of viewing and engaging with VR content.

At Mativision we have been working on the live broadcast of 360° and VR content for the past 10 years and the majority of the events we have worked on have been in the entertainment and music space. The live broadcast of the operation is a new challenge for us and we're proud to be at the forefront of educating the world about the uses and benefits of VR technology.