A group of scientists are working together in a laboratory. While experiments are made, data is collected and results are recorded. But scientists do not need to be at the same place any longer: Laboratory equipment can be simulated and controlled in a 3D environment remotely over the internet. Could the future of research look like this?
Virtualization of research environments
The virtual versions of the labs are built at the Stuttgart Media University. Remote users can work together collaboratively by using this virtual version of the laboratory and, for example, control robots in the real laboratory. Also research results can be made accessible easily in this environment.The laboratory equipment is simulated in an virtual 3D environment and can be controlled by the users. The real laboratory equipment can be observed simultaneously with one or more webcams. To improve the overview and ease the control, all views and windows can be put on a virtual HUD (head-up display).
Remote Laboratory "Synthesis of Nano-Particles"
On the pictures above you can see the prototype of the nanotechnology laboratory of the FMF (Freiburg Materials Research Center) at the University of Freiburg. Documents (e.g. in PDF format) can be integrated into the virtual environment by drag and drop. The control of the laboratory equipment is realized via a VNC client that can also be integrated into the virtual environment.
Remote laboratory "Digital Holography"
Here you can see the prototype of the holography laboratory of the ITO (Institut für Technische Optik) at the University of Stuttgart. The primary goal was to simulate holograms in a virtual environment. On the left side of each picture a hologram is shown as an image, on the right side the representation of the image changes accordingly to the perspective it is been viewed. This prototype also served as the basis for experiments with a simple head-tracking system based on a WiiMote.
Direct control of devices
This is a concept for the direct control of laboratory devices (here for example shown at the microwave device of the FMF) in a virtual laboratory. Individual parts of the device can be directly manipulated by clicking on it. Interactive parts are highlighted when they are located under the mouse pointer. If a part of the device provides more than a single function, the desired action can be selected by 3D icons. This example shows a possible (direct) simulation of the control of the microwave as well as a concept for quick access to the actual measured data.
Implementation with Open Source Software
The virtual laboratories are built using Wonderland, an open source project by Sun Microsystems. Wonderland is a tool for building interactive 3D-Worlds which can be easily extended and therefore is open to further developments.
Contact: Prof. Dr. Walter Kriha, Norman Pohl,
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