Virtual Reality will help the first head transplant patient adjust to his brave new world


Head transplants are something out of science fiction. Futurama even parodied the idea by keeping famous people’s heads encapsulated in small tubes for preservation. As we head towards the world of tomorrow however, this science-fiction is slowly evolving to become science fact, and now a man named Professor Sergio Canavero is hoping to use modern science and virtual reality to swap someone’s head onto a new body and preemptively prepare him for his new life.

The patient is 30-year-old Valery Spiridonov, who has a debilitating disease called Werdnig-Hoffman disease. This disease is a rare form of spinal-muscular astrophy, and makes life extremely difficult. Spiridonov is hoping this new body will help him to finally live a normal life, and Professor Sergio Canavero thinks VR will help the man to adjust to a procedure that has only ever been attempted on monkeys in the past.

The new virtual reality system is being developed by Inventum Bioengineering Technologies, and is supposed to help the patient adjust to the new body much more rapidly. From the press images the company has shown so far, the patient will likely be using an HTC Vive in tandem with a nearly frictionless surface and hanging vest to help simulate these newfound muscles before the surgery. Spiridonov says that virtual reality simulations are extremely valuable in rapid learning and development, and should help to prevent “unexpected psychological reactions”.

The surgery will consist of Spiridonov’s head being rapidly frozen to prevent brain cell death, and will then be connected to tubes to keep his arteries and veins alive. The spinal cord will then be cut and reattached to a donor body, which will then hopefully accept Spiridonov’s head and allow him to control it.

This is an incredibly useful method for virtual reality, and if the procedure works we could be opening up the technology to a whole new field of futuristic science. It is not currently known where the procedure will take place, but Canavero hopes to perform the operation by the end of 2017.

Are you exited for this futuristic procedure? Virtual reality is quickly seeing hundreds of uses outside of gaming, and I’m ready for a future where we use VR in our everyday lives.

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