Step into the operating room, with your phone

Published 7:53 AM ET, Thu April 21, 2016
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Health care company Medical Realities is using virtual reality to transport people directly into an operating room to watch surgeons as they operate. Dr. Shafi Ahmed's operating theater held the world's first live surgery in virtual reality last week. Courtesy Medical Realities
Medical students -- and members of the public -- tuned in from all over the globe to watch Ahmed perform surgery on a 70-year old British colon cancer patient. Students at the Royal London Hospital where the surgery took place watch the surgery unfold. Courtesy Medical Realities
Nearly 50,000 people watched the surgery, which lasted two hours and 40 minutes, including these students in Morocco. The greatest numbers watching on desktop were in China. Courtesy Medical Realities
People could watch using the VRinOR app available on Android and iOS as well as the Medical Realities website. The team at the Royal London provided viewing equipment to a range of schools and training hospitals. Courtesy Medical Realities
While primarily targeting medical students and trainees, many of the people tuning in were people in search of content, using gadgets such as Samsung Gear VR. ROBYN BECK/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The cheapest virtual reality option at the moment is the humble Google Cardboard. Several models are available online for as little as $15, and they work with almost any smartphone. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The team at Medical Realities is not stopping simply at immersion inside an operating theater. The next goal is to provide truly virtual surgery, where the viewer conducts the operation. "My vision is that you have a virtual body, pick up a virtual scalpel, see virtual blood and create a completely virtual operation," said Ahmed. Courtesy Medical Realitis