Augmented Reality in the wet lab

Posted June 14th, 2010 by konrad

Eppis with augmented information

It has been quite a while since I was working in a wet lab the last time but I still have a lot of respect for the busy bees generating data there. It’s hard to imagine such a lab without personal computers which get data automatically from the detecting apparatus or manually from the experimenter. But as far as I am informed the stream of information of an experiment is mostly going in one direction – from the experimenter to the computer. Using the channel from the data pool to the experimenter could offer interesting opportunities to improve research. There are devices like electronic lab journals but I think about a further step: Augmented reality (AR) for the wet lab.

Petri dish with augmented information

I prepared two quick and dirty mock-ups (upper part = raw image, lower part = image + data layer) and hope they are sufficient to give a rough impression of the idea. In both cases QR codes would be used to identify the object. A smartphone with a camera would detect these items (e.g. microtrubes or petri dishes) and overlay the given image with information about the experiment. In the case of the petri dish the size of the colony could be measured (assuming that the petri dish can be used as a reference) additionally and stored as part of the experiment. The applications of such systems are endless and all the technologies are available for low cost. It’s just about connecting everything. Is any project bringing this to reality already? It’s somehow hard to believe that this is not the case but I couldn’t find anything like it. This could be a cool community project.

PS: I have to admit there are some small technical hurdles in my examples. The QR codes are pretty small and my smartphone was unable to interpret the code correct if they are bend around something.

Attribution: Original images “32-day-wristband-culture” by Flickr user justinbaeder and Bacteria solution by Flickr user kaibara.

2 Responses to “Augmented Reality in the wet lab”

  1. Katrin

    Hi Konrad!

    Thanks for writing up your thoughts about this and for pointing it out. In addition to those tweets, I think a distinction can be made for the application of AR in the lab by purpose of the documentation.

    In case the identification of samples is paramount, QR codes would indeed be best and recording may not be really important. If on the other hand, methods and their development into reproducible protocols are more important, reviewing the video material would be the goal of recording it.

    In either case, universities should push both AR device manufacturers for on-premise solutions. Mandatory transmission to some companies servers would probably bog down acceptance of such technology.


  2. Konrad Förstner

    Documentation and reproducibility is very good application that I missed completely. With newer (I wrote this 5 years ago) gadgets like Google Glass this would be feasible.

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