Massive Multitouch Microscope

There’s things I want… There’s things I think I want…
So sang the Stereophonics back in 1999.

This falls into both those categories. For me, anyway. I have no idea whether the Stereophonics would be at all interested.

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.

Indeed. Any scientist reading this will remember queuing up to have a look down the class microscope and then having to ask something along the lines of:

What? That purple blob on the left, next to the other purple blob?

It’s certainly not difficult to see the educational benefits in being able to view and interact with a slide under the microscope in this way. It will also presumably allow expert examination of slides from anywhere in the world, something which has previously been rather difficult, as the microscope operator tries to describe what s/he is seeing to the expert on the other end of the phone:

There’s a purple blob on the left, next to another purple blob.

And it’s almost impossible to make a definitive diagnosis from that.

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.

And they prove this on the video, although their swiping, zooming and otherwise manipulating looks a bit odd at 0:56. I sincerely hope that there was some histological slide being displayed there and not some Finnish model.

There’s always the emotional downside though:

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.

Well, perhaps in Finland, but sadly I have a feeling that we grass-roots scientists working in South Africa will be living in those nostalgia-laden “old days” for a good few years to come.

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