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    Virtual reality: The reality of 2014







    This is proving to be a technologically exciting year. On March 25, Facebook announced that it is acquiring Oculus VR, Inc., the leader in immersive virtual reality (VR) technology, for approximately $2 billion.1 The founder of Oculus VR, 21-year-old Palmer Luckey, who proudly states that he has one of, if not the, largest personal collection of head-mounted displays in the world, said in an interview last summer, “I started to collect [headsets] and bought a lot of them from government auctions and industry equipment liquidation sites and all kind of fun places. I took them apart, looked at how they worked, tried to learn what do they do right … what do they do wrong. … I started to try and modify some of them and make them into something I would actually want to use.”2

    Because of his passion for wearable displays, he became an active participant in Meant To Be Seen (MTBS) 3D’s discussion forums. Through the power of traditional social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and his connections through MTBS’ online forums, Luckey developed the idea of creating a head-mounted display that was “both more effective than what is currently on the market, and inexpensive for gamers.”2,3

    So why did Facebook, a social media behemoth, buy a video game headset company? The answer lies in their press release: “While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology, and Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas. Given these broad potential applications, virtual reality technology is a strong candidate to emerge as the next social and communications platform.”1 Oculus VR is not only going to become another platform for using Facebook and connecting with social media contacts, but also will enable novel ways to interact virtually.

    During the last 6 months I have been using Google Glass whenever possible. Although I believe that Glass provides a first-person “feel” to connected viewers, it does not immerse the observer in surgery. Like an intuitive DaVinci robot console that blocks ambient light and restricts a surgeon’s field of view to only what is projected in the binoculars, Oculus VR’s headset may allow for the first “real-feel” user experience when worn by a virtual surgical observer. In fact, it is also foreseeable that if surgeons started operating with Oculus VR headsets, the need for surgical assistants could be obviated, because head motions could direct the camera if connected to a robotic-assisted trocar.


    Brian A. Levine, MD, MS, FACOG
    Dr. Levine is Practice Director at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York, New York.


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