Cutting-edge theatre: world’s first virtual reality operation runs live

Dr Shafi Ahmed will carry out surgery live-streamed in virtual reality, a move experts hope will build healthcare more equitable and help medical training

This Thursday afternoon, Shafi Ahmed will lean over a patient and begin a delicate operation to remove cancerous tissue from a male patients bowel. He has performed such procedures many times before. But this time it wont be only his surgical squad who are in the room with him the world will be there too.

Showing from 1pm the approximately two-hour long procedure at the Royal London Hospital is the worlds first operation to be streamed live in 360 -degree video, allowing medical students, trainee surgeons and curious members of the public to immerse themselves in the medical event in real time.

A cancer surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, Ahmed believes the approach could attain healthcare more equitable, improving the training of surgeons the world over. With internet connections becoming better, smartphones get ever cheaper and merely a pair of lenses and some cardboard needed to make a virtual reality headset the costs, he says, pale in comparison to the expenditure of students travelling abroad to train. It is actually quite cost effective, he said.

Shot use two 360 -degree cameras and a number of lenses arranged around the theater, the operation can be viewed through the VR in OR app, utilizing a virtual reality headset that is likely to be paired with a smartphone. Those who do not have a headset can watch the video live online.

While videos showcasing surgical procedures have been around for years, Ahmed believes the new approach is more than a mere gimmick. The technology, he argues, brings a valuable new feature to education, letting viewers to focus not just on what the surgeon is doing, but also on what other members of the team are up to. There is likely to be noise, there will be the immersive factor so that will add different layers of educational value, he added.

George Hanna, professor of surgical sciences at Imperial College, London is cautiously optimistic about the benefits of the approach. If this technology allows the transfer of knowledge and abilities[ over] a wider range and in an easier route that would be very beneficial.

But he is quick to add that, compared with existing approaches for sharing scenes from the operating theatre, the new technology offers more of an upgrade than a revolution. It is a good video and broad broadcast with interactive[ possibilities ], he told, stressing that the operation itself is real rather than virtual.

It is not the first time that Ahmed has led the style in embracing modern technology in healthcare. As co-founder of the healthcare company Medical Realities( which will be streaming the operation in collaboration Barts Health and 360 -degree video experts Mativision ), he believes virtual reality, augmented reality and games all play a role in training medical students: two years ago he streamed a live operation using the augmented reality system, Google Glass, permitting viewers to ensure the procedure from a surgeons point of view.

But the new 360 -degree video, says Ahmed, offers a new, immersive approach, allowing users to assure beyond what the surgeon is looking at. Among the developments he envisages, Ahmed is keen to add graphics to the raw footage to provide additional information during the operation, as well as taking questions from those viewing the procedure.

[ During an operation] I am teaching people, talking to them, there is communication going on so itll be just an extension of that, he told. Whats more, in three to five years haptic devices could boost the experience further, he added. Companies are genuinely working on various gloves or bodysuits and devices so that it can replicate touch and feel, he told.

Such technologies, said Ahmed could be a boon to health care. But he added, the role of patients in agreeing to take part should not be forgotten. Ultimately, it is about the operation, about[ the patient ], about his cancer care and that has to be the priority for everyone, he said. The fact that patients have agreed to do this before with the Google Glass and again, it is quite reassuring and quite humbling.

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WATCH: What Does A Migraine Really Feel Like?

Almost 40 million people in the United States suffer from migraines, a condition that can severely impact sufferers’ lives. Yet, for those who are fortunate enough to not be inflicted with the condition, it can be hard to understand just how debilitating a migraine can be.

“Isn’t it merely a bad headache? ” they might ask.

Now, thanks to a virtual reality experience created by the analgesic brand Excedrin , non-migraine sufferers are being given the chance to experience a migraine firsthand.

“Even with the number of sufferers out there, migraines are still widely misunderstood — largely because the individuals who don’t experience the condition can’t fully understand it, ” Excedrin wrote on its website. “That’s why[ we] made the world’s first migraine simulator … This technological innovation makes it possible for non-sufferers to insure what a migraine is really like.”

Migraines manifest differently in different people. While they often involve severe ache, other neurological symptoms can arise as well, such as visual disorders, nausea, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to sound, lighting and touch.

For Excedrin’s experiment, only a few migraine symptoms were replicated: auras, disorientation, extremely bright suns, floating spots and tunnel vision.

In the video, friends and relatives of migraine sufferers are assured donning a VR headset and attempting to navigate the world as ordinarily as is practicable while suffering an onslaught of these symptoms.

“I’ve got to stop, ” one man said after being overwhelmed by the experience. He afterwards told his migraine-afflicted girlfriend, “I’m sorry that I ever doubted you.”

“Oh my God. I don’t even know how you function, ” one woman told her best friend.

“It’s exactly what you simply experienced, plus severe, severe pain, ” the friend answered.

The reactions of loved ones to the experience “spoke volumes, ” said Excedrin in a news release.

“Once the non-sufferer experienced what[ their friend/ relative] goes through during a migraine, their increased understanding led to a reaction full of empathy and love, which, up to now, was harder to identify, ” the brand wrote.

According to the NY Daily News, “The Migraine Experience” will be available for download as an app in May. The simulation can be experienced utilizing Google Cardboard.

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CES 2016: six things to look forward to this year( including the smart bra)

The worlds largest consumer technology event is opening its doors in Las Vegas. Heres what to expect

When the Consumer Electronics Show first opened in 1967, it featured simply 14 vendors and was dominated by televisions. Sony launched their first VCR there three years later, and, in the 1980 s, Nintendo debuted its first games entertainment system on the prove floor.

This year, 3,200 vendors will take over Las Vegas for a week for the technology industrys pre-eminent trade demonstrate, offering the clearest window into a future in which everything, from your cleaning machine to your bra, has a computer chip. And there really is a vendor pitching a smart bra.

Through the massive foyers, entrepreneurs show off experimental contraptions of the future; firms have daisies with their latest mega-offerings, and small day vendors hawk trendy gifts. Last year, that would be selfie sticks; this year, hoverboards.



New autopilot features are demonstrated in a Tesla Model S. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/ Reuters

Cars have remained largely unchanged for the last hundred years, but in the last few months, the race to build a self-driving auto and to perfect electric vehicle technology has truly begun. The competition that started in Silicon Valley with Google and Tesla has now galvanized Detroit behemoths like Ford, General Motor and Chrysler. Expect new technology to be unveiled around cars all week from both upstart companies and familiar names.

Virtual reality


A gamer plays a game with the virtual reality head-mounted display Playstation VR during Paris games week in October. Photograph: Chesnot/ Getty Images

The tech around VR, which even die-hard fans had largely given up on, has taken off since Facebook bought Oculus last year. This year, with proclamations from HTC, Sony and Oculus, the tech is find another leaping toward being something consumers can afford and actually use. As for those working employs: its for more than only porn, but porn might be first. Then gaming.

Health tech

Sitting at computers all day is killing us, we know that. And we hope that gadgets that prod us into activity can reverse that. So far, health trackers havent taken off, with retention rates for most step-counting wristbands falling dramatically after a few months. But as the tech around smartwatches and health-aware clothing get lighter, smarter and more fun, that might change. The key will be making health tracking fun( just as Slack has gamified work communication to great success ). Maybe the makers of the XBoxKinect can attain workouts fun with their new MyCloudTag app or Fossils Misfit health tracker can construct them sexy.



Many CES attendees are just there for the party. Photograph: Alamy

CES may be full of gadget nerds, but its still in Las Vegas and the parties are a huge part of why tech executives from middle managers to CEOs fly in from across the world. Many conference attendees dont even actually register for the conference, instead merely presenting up for the socials at nightclubs and private suites across the city. Well bringing dispatches from the late-night scene.


The government and tech companies are already tracking almost all online behavior. This year, theres new tech that induces it easier for parents and spouses to do the same. For a little more than $100, Canadian-firm Trackimo LLC will sell you a small GPS device that you can use to track the things and the people we love the most, anywhere in the world. We might suggest letting the people you love most know what youre up to first.



The DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center before the start of CES. Photo: Robyn Beck/ AFP/ Getty Images

It wasnt so long ago that dronings were the exclusive province of American snoops. Now theyre a Christmas present, a would-be Amazon delivery driver and your personal videographer. There were four drone companies at last years CES. This year there are 33. Hexo +, Fleye and Mota everyone is pitching their own versions for those who want to watch more of themselves. The latest furor seems to involve small flying contraptions that automatically follow an owner and movie them. Suppose of it as a puppy with a GoPro.

Home automation

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph: Eric Risberg/ AP

Facebooks Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday said his New Years resolution was to build a smart butler for his home that would recognize guests, got my eye on his child and cue up Green Day, one of his favorite bands. Alternatively, the hacker whiz could just go shopping on the showroom floor this week. Bulgaria-based Allterco is marketing a home controller called She, a not-so-subtle reference to the software from the 2013 movie Her. Fibar Group, a Polish firm marketing more or less the same product, declares that everything is connected with its home automation system that connects to thermostats and smoke detectors. And Samsung is reportedly unveiling a refrigerator with a giant screen.

Representing the Guardian the coming week is likely to be us, Nellie and Danny, two new recruits of the Guardian San Francisco bureau exploring all the nooks and crannies of 2016s biggest customer tech. Danny has volunteered to wear a smart bra for a day ( E d note: Danny says no, he did not ). See you on the other side.

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Doctors look to VR to help deal with everything from ache to Alzheimer’s

When Deona Duke woke up from a medically-induced coma to begin regaining from burns that covered almost a third of her body, one of her therapies was hurling snowballs at penguins. The 13 -year-old was set on fire when a bonfire exploded on her and her friend. To avoid infection, burn victims need their bandages changed and dead scalp scraped away. Sometimes, even morphine isnt enough to induce that tolerable.

At the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Dukes doctors dedicated her a virtual reality headset. Slipping it on, she was immersed in SnowWorld, an icy landscape where she got to lob snowfall at snowmen and igloos. The Texas hospital is one of the few trying out virtual realityto relieve pain.Id never heard of it so I was a little surprised, she said. When I first tried it, it distracted me from what they were doing so it helped with the pain.

Its still a new and experimental approach, but supporters of virtual reality say that it can be an effective therapy for everything from intense pain to Alzheimers disease to arachnophobia to depression. And as Facebook Inc ., Sony Corp ., HTC Corp. and others race to build a dominant VR set, the price of hardware has fallen, inducing the equipment a more affordable option for hospitals looking for alternatives for ache relief.

The idea is that the worst pain can be alleviated by manipulating the route the human mind works: the more you focus on pain, the worse it feels. Swamp the brain with an overload of sensory inputssuch as with the submersion in a virtual worldand its capacity to process ache, to be conscious of it, goes down.

Pain is our harm alarm and it does a really good job of get our attention, said Beth Darnall, a clinical associate prof at Stanford Health Cares division of pain medication. She says VR, which Stanford has done some pilot studies on, is a psychological tool, like meditation, that can soothe the nervous system, and that dampens the pain processing.

In research done at Shriners by psychologists Hunter Hoffman and Walter Meyer, and similar work to be undertaken by Dave Patterson at Harborview Burn Center in Seattle, patients reported less inconvenience. Hoffman analyzed magnetic resonance imaging( MRI) scans of patients brains, which presented they actually experienced less pain.

At Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Ronald Yarbrough is waiting in a room that overlooks the hospitals landing pad, hoping to see helicopter bring him a donor heart. He needs a transplant after his artificial one failed and is being kept alive by a machine. He has been trying a Samsung Gear VR headset and specially made software from a startup called AppliedVR. It helped take his mind off the fact that hes confined to a small hospital room thatcan feel like a jail cell. When his muscles relaxed, his ache receded, he said.

I was on a lot of ache medication and Ive been able to whittle that down because Im not sitting around thinking about it, said the 54 -year-old former truck driver. He intends to buy a VR headset when hes discharged. I was very surprised by it. I didnt have the high expectations of it working. When I got into it, I was amazed.

Ronald Yarbrough tries out a VR headset at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.Photographer: David Nicholson/ Bloomberg

Proponents of VR are quick to point out that it could have a big benefit over medications, which can lead to tolerance over prolonged use and sometimes craving. But VRs effectiveness still has to be proven, particularly when trying to combat chronic pain. Does the effect last when the headset comes off?

We know that relaxation techniques like hypnosis, yoga, and meditation lessen your perception of ache, so VR has a lot of promise, but its too early for it to be the standard of care, said Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Its a very young technology.

Theres a lot more research needed before VR is going to be widely accepted as a ache relief technique. Brennan Spiegel, a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai whos also director of health services research at the Los Angeles hospital, is about to begin a study on manymore patients. So far hes experienced a range of reactions. Older patients tend to be less open to it than younger ones. One terminal patient rejects to even consider it. One female, who suffered abdominal pain, get such immediate relief that she went home and bought herself a headset.

As a scientist, I want to understand rigorously how something like virtual reality can truly improve health outcomes compared to a control population, said Spiegel who said hes watched some amazing outcomes in the 150 or so patients hes tried it on. Virtual reality undoubtedly has an effect on the human mind.

VRs possibilities for use in pain management was discovered by collision. Tom Furness is a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Washington and considered to be the godfather of VR by his peers. He started looking into VR 50 years ago when he was in the Air force, and has spun off more than 20 research projects into companies. One of them was a 1993 consumer headset that relied on a Tv tuner and video tapes that sold for $799. It was a commercial flop because of the limited content, but a lot of dentists bought it.

The dentists loved it because their patients werent complain, he said. The experience confused children around their dread of injections, drilling and fillings.

That aha moment led to more research into the long-known phenomena of distraction and meditation as techniques to relieve ache. But just like Furness attempt to bring VR to the masses, it was held up by costs. Early VR equipment for medical utilize expense as much as $35,000 for a headset, said Hunter Hoffman, who analyzed with Furness at the University of Washington.

Thats all set to change this year. VR is graduating from geeky sideshow to big business and equipment prices are falling. Oculus Rift Headset retails at $599. HTCs Vive expenses $799. To get them to run, youll need a PC that costs about $999 to run the software. The markets going to continue to expand as Sony adds the capability to their game consoles and smartphone makers upgrade their technology to get closer to the kind of performance needed to provide an effective VR experience.

The economics may attain VR an attractive experimentation for some hospitals. Hospital care takes up to about 30 percent of the U.S.s annual$ 3 trillion in health-care spending, inducing it the most costly category of therapy. The cost of a headset and software is tiny compared to the expenditure of keeping a patient in the hospital for an extra day. So if theres a chance that VR could lead to an early discharge, it may make sense for a hospital to spend on the hardware, said Cedars-Sinais Spiegel.

Companies such as AppliedVR are already trying to make the distribution and development of the technology into a business. Theyre furnishing hospitals with the headsets and therapeutic software. Another startup, DeepStream VR, is also working on software and systems that help patients with burns and other injuries. ItsCool! software features the adventures of an otter.

They may have some work to do to keep patients interested. The VR madeher feel better, but Duke quickly got bored with SnowWorld, and that lessened the painkilling effect.

For teenagers they should find, like, different games, she said. That game they were showing me seemed like it was for little kids.

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Polygraph for pedophiles: how virtual reality is used to assess sex offenders

A controversial lab in Montreal is developing virtual reality images that can help build a profile of a pedophile, and ascertain the health risks to society

In a maximum security mental health facility in Montreal is a cave-like virtual reality vault thats used to show images of child sexual abuse to sex offenders. Patients sit inside the vault with devices placed around their penises to measure signs of arousal as they are shown computer-generated animations of naked children.

We do develop porn, but these images and animations are not used for the pleasure of the patient but to assess them, said Patrice Renaud, who heads up the project at the Institut Philippe-Pinel. Its a little bit like using a polygraph but with other measurement techniques.

The system, combined with other psychological evaluations, is used to build up a profile of the individuals sexual preferences that can be used by the court to determine the risk they pose to society and by mental health professionals to determine treatment.

Not all child molesters are pedophiles( people who are sexually attracted to children) and not all pedophiles molest children, although the terms are often wrongly used interchangeably. In many cases, those who molest children are situational wrongdoers, which entails their offense is outside of their typical sexual preference or behavior.

You can have someone who molested a child once but is not a pedophile as such they may have been intoxicated or have another mental health disorder, said Renaud, who also results the Cyberpsychology Lab at the University of Quebec in Outaouais. We need to know if they have a preferred mode of sex expression.

Renaud use virtual reality for two reasons: first, because it does not involve images of real people, but digital ones, and second, because the immersive nature of the medium allows researchers to measure something closer to natural behavior.

The vault itself is a small room with screens on all sides, on to which are projected animations of naked children and adults standing in natural defines. The research team can generate synthetic characters in a range of ages and shapes and can adapt features like facial expression, genital sizing, and eye and hair color to correspond with the patients victims or sex fantasies.

Computer-generated characters developed at the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montreal. Photo: Institut Philippe-Pinel

The patients sit on a stool inside the chamber wearing stereoscopic glass which create the three-dimensional effect on the surrounding walls. The glass are fitted with eye-tracking technology to ensure they arent trying to trick the system by avoiding looking at the critical content.

These guys do not like going through this assessment, said Renaud, pointing out that the results can be shocking for the patient.

Its not easy for someone to discover he is attracted to violently molesting a kid. He may have been using the internet for some masturbatory activities using non-violent images or videos of the rights of children which is not a good thing. But being tested in the lab and knowing he is also attracted to violence may be something thats very difficult to understand.

Renaud acknowledges that the use of penile plethysmography, which involves placing a cuff-shaped sensor around the genitals, is controversial. Its not only invasive but there is some discrepancy in the scientific community about its reliability in measuring sex deviancy. Consequently, Renauds team is investigating a less invasive alternative: electroencephalography. This uses a cap that reads activity in the brain related to erectile answer and sexual appetites.

Renaud believes the same cap could be used to way the persons empathy response to expressions of pain, dread or sadness in the virtual child victim. These hinder the sex answer of non-deviant individuals.

Some deviant individuals can be attracted to signs of emotional distress.

If we find that the guy is attracted to children and doesnt feel empathy for the fact that the child is in pain, thats good information for predicting behaviour, he said.

Renaud and his squad assess about 80 patients per year, including pedophiles, rapists and other sexual deviants assigned by the court for assessment.

Electroencephalography could replace penile plethysmography. Photograph: Philippe-Pinel Institute of Montreal

A tool to help, or a gateway to abuse?

The lab is under intense scrutiny from ethical committees and the police in Quebec. The computer-generated imagery is necessary encrypted and stored in a highly secure shut computer network inside the maximum security hospital so that the material doesnt fall into the incorrect hands.

However, at a time when virtual reality porn is on the rise, its not unreasonable to assume that someone will if it hasnt already happened create virtual reality child abuse images designed explicitly to provoke rather than diagnose pedophiles.

Thanks to advances in computer graphics, such experiences could be created without ever harming or exploiting children. But even if no children are harmed in the making of such imagery, would society tolerate its creation? Could the content provide an outlet to some pedophiles who dont want to offend in real life? Or would a VR experience normalize behavior and act as a gateway to physical abuse?

Jamie Sivrais, of A Voice For The Innocent, which provides community support to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, said that people have a long history of blaming technology for human problems. He pointed to VHS tapes being used to create child abuse images and predators use internet chat rooms and smartphones to gratify and abuse children.

If the technology exists, there will be people who abuse it, he said.

I think this is a human problem. The same criticisms of VR could have( and have been) made about the internet and smartphones, and they are valid criticisms. So as we continue to push the envelope of technology, lets also continue to expand resources for people who are hurt by abuse.

Ethan Edwards, the co-founder of Virtuous Pedophiles, an online support group for people attracted to children but who do not wishes to molest them, argues virtual reality could help prevent real-life offences.

Edwards believes that, the imagery of children is computer-generated and doesnt involve any real victims, it was necessary to legal, as should life-size child sexuality dolls and erotic narratives about children.

I have a strong civil liberty streak and feel such things should be legal in the absence of very strong evidence they cause harm, he said.

Nick Devin, a pedophile and co-founder of the site, called for thorough scientific research. The answer may be different for different people. For me, doing these things wouldnt increase or reduce the risk to kids: Im not going to molest a kid whether I fantasize or not.

Its a opinion resound by Canadian forensic psychologist Michael Seto. He believes that VR could offer a safer outlet for individuals with well-developed self control.

But for others, such as those who are more impulsive, prone to risk-taking, or indifferent about the effects of their actions on others, then access to virtual child pornography could have negative effects and perhaps increase their longing for linked with real children.

Its a risk that concerns Renaud, who describes VR child abuse imagery and child-shaped sexuality robots as a very bad idea.

Only a very small portion of pedophiles could use that kind of sexual proxy without having the urge to go outside and get the real stuff, he said.

Its not only child sex abuse experiences that are concerning to Renaud, but violent first-person sexual experiences including rape and even entirely new deviances like having sex with ogres with three penises and blue skin.

We dont know what effect these sex experiences will have on the behavior of children and adults in the future, he said.

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