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Medical Breakthroughs -Operating Room VR and Chip Implants That Move Paralyzed Limbs

posted Apr 15, 2016, 9:09 AM by Ellen Pearlman

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IOS App that lets you stream an 360 operation

The world’s first VR operation was streamed live with its own IOS and Android apps on April 14, 2016. If you really wanted to go full tilt bogey on watching the colon cancer surgery you could have searchedv'VRinOR’ in the Oculus Store for a Gear VR to view it on.

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Special 360 Camera - Image from BBC

The operation carried out by Barts Health staff has been made possible in partnership with healthcare company Medical Realities and live streaming app Mativision. The doctor performing the surgery is Dr Shafi Ahmed

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Dr. Shafi Ahmed - Image from BBC

By being streamed through the Mativision app, it allowed thousands of medical students to tune in – and anyone else who wanted to, even people in developing countries. The website Medical Realities, allowed anyone who was using Google Cardboard and a smart phone to see what was going on. 

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Medical students using Google cardboard and their smartphones to watch the operation

In one sense, this is like a TV broadcast but with one huge difference. Whoever is watching can move themselves through a 360 degree view of the entire event -something even the doctors can’t accomplish. Its like being inside someone’s intestines, as well as the operating room. Future plans are to have the operation incorporate virtual touch and feel within a few years. 

CHIP IMPLANTS

The other breakthrough, which I have been tracking in my blogs, is about a chip implanted in a paralyzed man’s brain that enables him, if he concentrates hard enough, to bring motion back to his hands. Ian Burkhart broke his neck and lost the ability to control anything below his chest. 

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The electrical stimulators on Ian’s hand - all photos from Nature Magazine

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Nerve signals from brain to hand cut off at the neck

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Chip implanted into the brain - looks painful


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The red dots are the spots in the brain that light up when Ian thinks about flexing his hand

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The computer software algorithm learning how to fine tune the brain gripping formula

The computer device then sends signals to the muscle in the forearm. Ian is able to use his hand.

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Here Ian is with the stimulators on his forearm. He can even pinch a straw, all through thoughts that are conveyed to his hand thorough his brain but bypassing his normal muscular system. Its only being done in the lab at this point, but one day it could work with people outside of the lab in a more mobile setting. 

The work was done by Rajesh Rao, the director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington, and a scientist I have been tracking. The full paper is here.

This shows the emergence of both 360 VR for live streaming audiences as well as implantable devices to create truly bionic individuals

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