Europe Medicine Science Technology UK

Virtual Reality – from gaming to saving lives

After a first deep cut the surgeon swaps his scalpel for an odd pen-shaped device. Nurses swab emerging blood before he carefully applies the pen, tissue exploding into vapour.

But there’s no smell of burned flesh, no shiver in the sterile cold of the dreary OR . Instead I sit in a chair, watching the procedure from the comfort of my own home.

In April 2016 the UK was the first country to stream an operation using 360-degree cameras. Through an app, a headset, and their smartphones, the world could watch live as doctors removed cancerous tissue from a patient’s bowel.

iCAST Emergencies

This is “iCAST Emergencies” by SiMMS Imperial on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

While videos of operations have been around for a long time, the Virtual Reality approach makes healthcare more equitable, improving the training of surgeons worldwide.

Dr. Alan Bagnall and his team at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne belong to the pioneers using three-dimensional story-telling to prepare medics for the real thing.

You want to be taught in a way that doesn’t put patients at risk”, he said.

If I am teaching someone how to put a tube into an artery and get it wrong, a real person is going to be in pain or worse.”

Bagnall shows me a machine with two screens, a bunch of wires, and a full body mannequin. He introduced the sophisticated Swedish simulators in Newcastle to allow cardiologists, radiologists, and vascular surgeons in the making to immerse in realistic, every-day emergency scenarios.

With software drawing from real-life cases, even first year students get the opportunity to practise core skills to react to surgery complications without harming an actual patient.

We don’t want their learning curve on patients”, Bagnall said.

The technology is used to ease the transition from training to the clinical environment.”

The very authenticity, the haptic, and the sound that make Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality applications fun gimmicks have long helped to improve medicine in all areas.

Pediatric cardiologists stand in front of a library of heart defects, take aim and press the VR trigger to pull a workable 3D model. Vascular surgeons display a map of their patient’s blood vessels on their skin through AR. Neurosurgeons submerge into their patient’s brain to have a closer look before operating.

And this is only a small extract from the plethora of new disruptive technologies in the surgical armamentarium.

VR is also becoming a powerful tool in psychology. Using technology alongside therapy now allows conditions like phobias, pain management, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder to be treated.

In a world of diminishing NHS resources, Virtual Reality can be a money saver, too – technology that is not just available, and accessible but affordable.

Because of its advantages VR should be a no-brainer for doctors and hospitals”, Bagnall said. However, its huge potential comes with great responsibility.

There are also a number of limitations and legal pitfalls, the most dangerous of which certainly is data misuse.”

Nonetheless, the technology used to thrill virtual racing drivers or shoot marauding Vikings is now saving lives for good measure.

Feature Image: Brother UK – CC BY 2.0
Photo Credit: © Florian Vitello


Agriculture Europe Science

Are bees really dying?

Bees are the world’s most important pollinators and are worth about £200m to British agriculture each year. In the UK alone, they are responsible for the pollination of more than 40 important food crops. Apocalyptic news of the death and disappearance of the buzzy insect leading to a deserted world without fruits and vegetables concern activists and consumers alike. But what truth is there in those dire forecasts? Are our bees really dying?


Let’s just spill it right away: yes, our pollinators are in immediate danger and we need to do something about it. However, many articles going around these days plainly couldn’t bee more wrong when talking about measurements to fight the insect mortality.


3 Things Not to Miss This Weekend at ‘The Great Exhibition of the North’ – Newcastle-Gateshead…

2018’s largest UK event, ‘The Great Exhibition of the North,’ will be kicking off tomorrow across the Newcastle-Gateshead area. The exhibition, whose title harks back to the ‘Great Exhibition’ of 1851, hosted at the spectacular Crystal Palace, will celebrate some of the greatest art, design and innovation the North has to offer – both old and new!

Go North East on Twitter

Just 2 days until the official opening of @getnorth2018! Visit to view the full programme of events and to plan your journey. #GetNorth2018

Set up and staged across Newcastle-Gateshead’s compact, iconic cityscape the free, 80-day exhibition will be taking the shape of three walking routes – an art trail, a design trail and an innovation trail – which will take visitors on an interactive, inspiring journey of the city’s celebrated past and anxiously anticipated future.

JIN SONG on Twitter

getnorth2018 Fourth floor: IDEA OF NORTH Come here to know the North, to know the Newcastle

Running from the 22nd June to the 9th September, the exhibition’s sprawling programme includes a range of exciting offerings from visual art galleries, music and dance performances to a catalogue of digital, design, film, sport and science displays and installations.

So, what should you sprint for this weekend? What exhibits are not to be missed?!

The Discovery Museum – from Steamers to Streamlines

A steam locomotive dating back from 1829 will be on display at the Discovery Museum until September. The prized ‘Stephenson Rocket,’ one of the UK’s oldest steam trains, was made in Newcastle in 1829 but usually resides at London’s Science Museum where it has been exhibited since 1862.

Great Exhibition of the North 2018 on Twitter

The covers are off #Rocket #GetNorth2018

Also on display will be Newcastle’s newest streamline train – Azuma – which will be being introduced in December!

Michael Thomas on Twitter

Outside the Discovery Museum. Final prep for the Great Exhibition of the North is underway! #Getnorth2018

Life Science Centre – Robots – Then and Now

It’s tempting to think of robots as a modern invention but as the ‘Robots – Then and Now’ exhibit at the Life Science Centre will be setting out to show, humans have actually been looking to the power and possibility of robotics for over 500 years…

Paul Szomoru on Twitter

Awesome time @scienceatlife #RobotsThenAndNow launch event with godsons who loved it!

The fascinating, family-friendly exhibition will take you from 16th Century mechanical automatons to some recent, cutting edge humanoids that will provide a glimpse into our possible future and maybe even make you question what it means to be human…

Remake the Take

From Blade Runner to Brief Encounter, the North has inspired generations of filmmakers and audiences and provided the setting of countless popular and critically acclaimed films.

dancecity on Twitter

Recreate your favourite northern screen smooches with the Great Exhibition of the North’s #remakethetake movie trail, here at Dance City until the 9th of September! #northerncinema #greatexhibitionofthenorth #moviekisses

As of tomorrow, you can follow the ‘Remake a Take’ movie trail to discover where all your favourite Northern film and television programmes were shot and even capture – and upload – your own recreations of their most iconic stills using the official hashtag (#remakethetake).

Take our quiz: Can you name the movies shot in Newcastle?