Virtual reality gets most coverage from its use in gaming, but it has many more applications, including some with the potential to save or enhance lives. Nokia’s OZO virtual reality camera is proving its worth in this respect, with a recent outing as a training aid for brain surgeons.
Surgeons undergo a long and complex training period before they are free to act independently on treating patients. And even when they are practicing, education and learning are ongoing. Working with and observing others more experienced in their chosen fields is a key part of learning. So surgeons are used to the idea of learning through observation.
But how is this achieved?
Surgeons aren’t able to travel constantly to be part of groundbreaking surgery, or to observe complex procedures up close. But modern virtual reality (VR) technologies could help them achieve a near-presence experience of operating theatres, without the need to travel to them.
Proof of concept
Nokia took an experiment in using VR to help surgeons train to the 17th annual Live Demonstration Course in Operative Microneurosurgery, held at Helsinki University Hospital this June. This is an annual event that surgeons attend in order to watch operations take place and learn from the experience.
This year, attendees were offered a totally new way to experience and learn surgical techniques via VR live streaming. The Nokia team developed a solution in which a video from the surgery microscope and brain imaging pictures were captured in a real-time live stream.
The experience delivers a stereoscopic 360-degree OZO camera live stream with spatial audio, complemented by interactive microscope and graphics overlays.
Normally, live operations can be observed first-hand by a maximum of around 15 people, with others watching on TV screens. But with access to VR live streaming, an operation can be shared with as many people as necessary, and they don’t have to be nearby.
Moreover, those with access to the VR streams can observe more than just the surgery itself. They can see how the patient is prepared for surgery, and observe the work of assisting nurses and anesthesiologists. This opens up opportunities for learning about what makes teams work well together, and understanding all the different roles played in complex surgery.
“Helsinki University Hospital wants to be a forerunner in exploring, identifying and demonstrating novel opportunities in the virtual, augmented and mixed reality domains, and drive concept creation for future virtual and augmented reality in medical context,” said Miikka Korja, a neurosurgeon and chief innovation officer at the hospital. “We are really happy that we can cooperate with the Nokia team, who are pioneers in this area.”
Taking Ozo beyond surgery
Nokia says the potential benefits of this use of VR go beyond surgery itself. Technologies such as its Nokia OZO camera could bring doctors together in virtual worlds to help find solutions to complex cases. They might be used in patient care as part of the communications between patients, family and medical practitioners. And the could allow operating teams to review surgery and learn from what has been done.