The Smart Cyber Operation Theater (SCOT) at Tokyo Women’s Medical University looks straight out of a science fiction movie. Robots and AI assistants link up with traditional medical equipment, sharing data and providing advice to surgeons in real time. And now there’s a new high-tech tool in the mix—a VR camera for live streaming surgery.
Space and safety concerns limit the number of people who can observe a surgery up close. With an immersive live stream, medical students and other doctors can experience an operation in real time from the surgeon’s perspective.
The university hired Hacosco Co. Ltd., a VR agency, to provide the live streaming solution. Using an Insta360 Titan camera and the new Insta360 8K Live software, Hacosco made surgery live streams viewable on VR headsets outside the operating theater.
At a time when COVID-19 social distancing protocols are limiting in-person classes, VR live streaming can provide an immersive educational experience. We spoke to Dr. Naotaka Fujii, CEO of Hacosco, to learn more about their application of this technology.
How did this surgery live streaming project come about?
Hacosco Co., Ltd. was founded in July 2014 under the RIKEN venture system of Japan’s RIKEN research institution. Since its founding, we have been working to provide and distribute VR solutions.
With this project for Tokyo Women’s Medical University, we delivered an 8K VR live streaming solution for the Smart Cyber Operation Theater.
“Surgery tours” have been conducted at medical sites for some time. But observers must stand at a distance from the surgeon, limiting detailed observation of the operation.
Compared to conventional surgery tours, live streaming using 8K VR video provides a more realistic field of view. You can experience the surgery from a viewpoint that previously no one but the surgeon could experience.
Why was it important that the surgery was live streamed in 8K quality?
In this project, it was essential that the livestream of the operation was of high quality with low latency to provide an immersive experience. We also had to ensure that the camera would not block the surgeon’s field of view during the operation.
We could have used Insta360 Pro 2 for this project as well, but this time we were looking for the highest quality imagery. We decided to use Insta360 Titan, which has better image quality with the same number of pixels.
The Titan’s video quality is overwhelmingly better than other camera brands. The video has very little visual noise, which is great in low-light environments. We were also easily able to mount the camera on the ceiling to get a good field of view that didn’t obstruct the surgeon’s line of sight.
Another key factor was that Insta360 8K Live software allows us to simultaneously stream and record live video so that we can play it back as many times as we want. This way, the 8K VR surgery live stream can also be used for research and education purposes after the surgery is over.
The Titan’s video quality is overwhelmingly better than other camera brands. The video has very little visual noise, which is great in low-light and poorly-lit environments.
Before the operation begins, we connect the Insta360 Titan to a server PC running the 8K Live Software. While live streaming the operation, we always record the video in real-time for later playback. Currently, the surgery live stream can be watched by two observers on VR headsets.
The university is also planning to share recorded VR live streams at academic conferences, academic paper presentations and medical school classes.