The HTC Vive may soon help patients prepare for a human head transplant

On Saturday during the annual Glasgow Neuro Conference, Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero revealed a virtual reality platform developed by Inventum Bioengineering Technologies of Chicago, Illinois, to prepare patients for what lies ahead after their head is attached to a new body. That’s right: it’s to help with the psychological and physical changes that will take place after a human head transplant, the first of which will be performed next year.

“We are combining the latest advancements in virtual reality,” said Inventum co-founder and CEO Alexander Pavlovcik, “to develop the world’s first protocol for preparing the patient for bodily freedom after the transplantation procedure.”

Prior to the transplant, the patient will undergo several months of training through virtual reality. These doctor-prescribed “experiences” will be tailored so that the patient uses full body movement for getting accustomed to voluntary motor functions. The first patient to use this VR platform will be Valery Spiridonov, who currently suffers from a muscle-wasting disorder called Werdnig-Hoffman disease.

The first part of the procedure will consist of attaching the patient’s head to a new body, also known by the acronym HEAVEN (head anastomosis venture). The second part will consist of infusing the head’s portion of the spinal cord to the body, a procedure known by the name Gemini. If the two procedures are successful, Spiridonov will already know how to use his new limbs thanks to what he learned through the VR system. In the words of Canavero, it will be a new world for the patient.

The VR system appears to be based on the HTC Vive headset and the Virtuix Omni, the latter of which features a concave surface and a stationary brace so that users can lock themselves in and physically move around in virtual reality without pacing the room and bumping into walls. The VR system also includes a cage-like structure with an attached, stationary vest to help keep the patient standing and in one place.

Canavero claims to have already completed successful trials using a monkey and a dog. The former reportedly took place in January, with the surgeon attaching a monkey’s head to a new body. The head was previously drained of all blood and cooled at 15 degrees Celsius, but did not suffer any brain injury during the transplant. However, the dog underwent a different procedure in that its spinal cord was over 90 percent severed and reconnected using a chemical called polyethylene glycol (PEG). The dog reportedly could walk again three weeks after the procedure.

Canavero first made his plans known to carry out the first human head transplant in 2013 when he was part of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy. The attempt then became public knowledge in February of 2015 in an interview with New Scientist. However, the very first head transplant was successfully completed on a monkey by Robert White at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1970. The monkey only lived for nine days because the body’s immune system rejected the head.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors surrounding the transplant of a human head. One of the biggest concerns is over the proper fusion of the spinal cord. But both Canavero and Spiridonov are willing to go all the way with the transplant, including using the HTC Vive to prepare Spiridonov (in the event the operation is successful) for what is to come with a brand new, healthy body.

Gaming

Minecraft Earth hands-on preview: The next big AR craze Is coming

Minecraft Earth is a new mobile augmented reality game from Microsoft that has Pokémon Go dead in its sites. The cute monster collect-them-all started the genre, but Minecraft Earth hopes to redefine it.
Computing

Linux is now beating Windows on Microsoft’s own turf, and Azure is better for it

According to remarks by a developer at Microsoft, there are now more instances of Linux-based operating systems running on the company's Azure cloud platform than Windows-based ones.
Smart Home

A prototype robotic grocery store has just launched in Tel Aviv

CommonSense Robotics is going all-in on its innovative robotics-powered grocery distribution and delivery platform by opening up a new automated grocery delivery center in Tel Aviv.
Smart Home

LifeShield adds an HD video doorbell to its array of gadgets

LifeShield has long been the prime brand of security provider ADT but its latest device, an HD video doorbell targeted to smart home owners, seeks to take the company's smart home platform to the next level.
Wearables

The improved TicWatch Pro has 4G LTE connectivity and activity detection capabilities

Mobvoi may not be a household name in the U.S., but it sells affordable smartwatches running Google's Wear OS platform. The firm's next watch has been revealed, and the new TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE comes with full 4G access.
Mobile

Google’s new $999 augmented reality smartglasses are ready for business

Google unveiled Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, a new version of its business-focused augmented reality wearable. The company's smartglasses ship with a faster processor, an updated camera, and safety frames from Smith Optics.
Product Review

Oculus Quest is the affordable VR rig we’ve been waiting for

Oculus announced that its Project Santa Cruz virtual reality headset will ship next year as the Oculus Quest, and we got to try out several new game titles on the Quest. Find out our impressions of VR without wires.
Cars

Volvo wants to use augmented reality tech to help design future cars

Volvo and Finnish tech firm Varjo developed an augmented reality headset that can be used while driving a real car. Volvo claims this will help speed up the development process of future cars.
News

Apple unveils ARKit 3 for more immersive augmented reality experiences

Apple has unveiled ARKit 3, which brings major improvements to its augmented reality platform. New features include people occlusion and motion capture, in addition to RealityKit and Reality Composer.
Computing

HTC’s Vive Pro Eye, a $1,600 VR headset with eye-tracking, is all business

HTC has finally released its Vive Pro Eye virtual reality headset in the United States, but before you get excited, it's important to note that it's not really for gamers. This headset is meant for commercial and business use.
Virtual Reality

Augmented reality brings VR to the real world in all sorts of exciting ways

Heard of virtual reality, but still wondering what augmented reality is? It's not too far a leap from the former -- it just blends the real world with the digital one in often unique and exciting ways.
Deals

Walmart offers the Oculus Go virtual reality headset with a $30 gift card

Are you in the market for a virtual reality headset? Walmart is running a great deal on the Oculus Go VR headset. Here's everything you need to know about this great standalone headset.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR surpassed expectations and it comes with an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.