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“Fantastic Voyage” is getting (virtually) real

Virtual reality is picking up steam in healthcare. In this image a surgeon exploring the “inside” of a patient brain. Image credit: Visualise

I was a young boy when I saw Fantastic Voyage (1966 – it is available on YouTube, of course!), a movie showing the attempt to save the life of a scientist that had crucial secrets and was incapacitated by a blood clot in the brain. In the movie a team of rescue-surgeons got miniaturised, boarded a micro submarine and travelled inside the blood vessels of the scientist to reach the blood clot in the brain and remove it.

It was pure science fiction, not even 1% of science was there.

Well, it turns out that technology has now progressed to a point where a Fantastic Voyage, although in a virtual space, can become “real”.

This is what is being discussed this week, on December 16th, at the MIT – you can follow the webinar by registering here.

Vicarious Surgical, a US company specialised on robots for healthcare, surgery in particular, will be demonstrating their new system, a system that through virtual reality let a surgeon step inside a patient body along with a micro-robot (this one really inserted in the patient blood vessels) to see what the robot is “seeing” and manipulate the tissues around by instructing the robot actions, as if she were sitting in the robot “head”.

If it is not a Fantastic Voyage it comes really close, with the great advantage that this one is real! For sure I will be joining the webinar and watch this re-edition of that movie amazed of the twist of science fiction into science in just 60 years.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.