Augmented reality is commonly associated with games, marketing or science fiction, but the technology is becoming invaluable to scientists looking for a way to beat cancer. The technology’s penchant for 3D imaging allows scientists to interact with large-scale models of molecules and chemicals in a way they have never done before. Art Olsen, a professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute in California, is using augmented reality to see how new drugs are interacting with molecules as a way to determine their effectiveness when fighting the disease.
Olsen, along with a team of researchers from the Institute, has developed new chemical analysis software that uses augmented reality. The team has constructed a number of 3D models of molecular structures with the software, which they can interact with through a webcam. The software allows researchers to add drugs and monitor their effects either in real-time or at an accelerated rate – a feature that may one day replace the need for laboratory mice.
The system is built to be similar to the popular FoldIt platform. FoldIt is an experimental game developed by the University of Washington. The game presents players with a number of puzzles that have confounded the medical world. By unraveling these puzzles, players can help scientists find answers to biologic questions that have proved elusive for years. Olsen’s system takes the game a step further by introducing augmented reality.