Mashing web-based virtual microscopy and a massive multi-touch display surface, Finnish researchers have created a new interface for laboratory science that allows researchers to pan and zoom around a microscope sample via a tabletop or wall-mounted touchscreen, zooming in so close that sub-cellular details can be seen.
Given the fact that the minimum size for the screen is 46 inches--and it can be much larger, like the size of a conference table or even an entire wall--the device is capable of making the very small very large. The multitouch surface can recognize the touches of several different people at the same time, adding a whole new dimension to collaborative science and lab instruction.This isn’t just an overblown iPad app--files can be up to 200 gigabytes, so there’s some real computing power backing the multitouch microscope. But from a technology standpoint, it’s not so very complex. Samples are digitized using a microscopy scanner and put onto a server from which the touchscreen device continuously receives them over the Web.
From there, an entire group can stand around a massive visualization of a sample, swiping, zooming, and otherwise manipulating it intuitively and without any kind of serious training. We’ll always be a bit nostalgic for the old days when we stained our own slides in chem lab, but it’s hard to argue that a wall-sized, multitouch microscope isn’t extremely cool.