VisMo: Augmented Reality Visualization of Scientific Data and Molecular Structures

Max Collins and Dr. Alan B. Craig

Volume 8, Issue 1 (February 2017), pp. 12–15

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  author={Max Collins and Dr. Alan B. Craig},
  title={VisMo: Augmented Reality Visualization of Scientific Data and Molecular Structures},
  journal={The Journal of Computational Science Education},
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In this paper, we describe and detail the creation of and use for our project that allows for augmented reality visualization of data produced using Blue Waters supercomputer or other high performance computers. While molecular structures have been displayed using augmented reality before [1,6], we created a pipeline for using information from the Protein Data Bank and automatically loading it into an augmented reality scene for further display and interaction. We find it important to create an easy way for students, scientists, and anyone else to be able to visualize molecular structures using Augmented Reality because it offers an interactive three dimensional perspective that is typically not available in the classroom. Learning about molecular structures in 2D is much less comprehensive, and our technique for visualization will be free for the end user and offer a great deal of aid to the learning and teaching process. There is no separate purchase required as long as a user has a smart phone or tablet. This is a helpful addition to scientific papers which, if containing the right target image, can be used as the visualization "anchor". The Protein Data Bank (PDB) houses information about proteins, nucleic acids, and more to help scientists and students understand concepts and ideas in biology and chemistry [5]. Our project goal is to open the PDB up to students and people who are not familiar with augmented reality visualization and allow people to learn using the PDB by visualizing molecular structures in different representations, annotating and interacting with the structures, and offering learning modules for common molecular structures. We created a prototype mobile application allowing for molecular visualization of PDB structures, and are continuing to tweak our project for an eventual release to the public.