360-degree immersive video for learning

On 14 April 2016 at the Royal London Hospital, Dr Shafi Ahmed performed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. While the surgery itself may have been routine, its broadcast medium was anything but; this was the world’s first surgical procedure to be live-streamed in 360-degree video.

I was one of those watching the live-stream that day. I had my iPhone tucked into a Google Cardboard, and I could look all around the theatre and directly into the patient; I could hear machines beeping and hear instruments being called for. I could see medical students in the theatre, watching from a vantage point evidently farther away than mine, as I could look down directly into the patient’s insides, while they could only stand near the door and peer over the shoulders of others.

I am not a doctor. These sights and sounds were new to me. I felt privileged to see and hear things to which I would otherwise have had no access. I could see how this could help pre-clinical med students to get a feeling for the terminology, attitudes, ethos, actions, sights and sounds of the operating theatre, as well as the inner workings of the cancer operation itself.

At Leicester Medical School, I run a student-staff group called MedRIFT — Medical Research Into Future Technology. Working together with TeachMeAnatomy —student creators of the fantastically successful open-source anatomy ‘textbook’ site by that name — we will be attempting to not only imitate but build on Shafi Ahmed’s work. We plan to do a 360-degree video of a surgical operation with some additional features, soon to be announced. We are also likely to go in other directions and film other clinical scenarios for which 360 immersive video can particularly effectively illustrate points to pre-clinical students. We will report here as developments unfold.

360-degree immersive virtual reality video — what do you think: gimmicky or educational?

Terese Bird, Educational Designer, Leicester Medical School

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