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.