The first collaborative VR molecular modeling application was released yesterday, August 29, to encourage hands-on chemistry experimentation.
Nanome Inc., the San Diego-based start-up that built the intuitive application, comprises UCSD professors and researchers and web developers. Their advisors include top-level pharmaceutical executives.
“Gamers might be confused that you can’t shoot atoms, chemicals and proteins,” said Steve McCloskey, Founder and CEO of Nanome. “But, those with an interest in chemistry are going to be blown away.”
According to Nanome, this VR software allows you to “traverse, build and modify the nanoscale world.”
“With our tool, anyone can reach out and experience science at the nanoscale as if it is right in front of them. At Nanome, we are bringing the craftsmanship and natural intuition from interacting with these nanoscale structures at room scale to everyone,” McCloskey said.
Here is some mixed-reality footage of the app being used in real time by McCloskey, provided by the company’s Chief Engineer and Co-Founder, Sam Hessenauer. You can also view a rebroadcast of a live demonstration of the app on Twitch.
The the team goes on to explain the impact they feel their product will have for its users:
“The Nanome software opens the door to a virtual world where you can experiment, design, and learn at the nanoscale alongside your friends and real-world research scientists,” it says.
McCloskey feels that the app’s allowance for real-time communication and interaction alongside the virtual nano-verse they’ve created will be invaluable for up-and-coming scientists in the field.
“For the first time, scientists and everyday people can collaborate and work independently through a common interface,” said McCloskey. “We are providing you with the best tools science can provide.”
According to the press release, the software involves an in-game camera which photographs your work in an easily-sharable format. Public and private ‘rooms’ allow the user to collaborate and share their scientific ideas. You can receive critiques from professionals or reactions from friends in real-time. An in-game marketplace gives the user the ability to purchase the plug-ins necessary to further their particular scientific inquiry.
The release boasts a robust codebase that can be easily updated as well.
“You can import scientifically accurate molecular structures from online research databases such as RCSB Protein Databank, Pubchem and Drugbank,” the release says.
The team wants to emphasize the significance of this access. Armed with this information, they say, users have the unique ability to manipulate and measure atomic distances and angles between atoms and learn about and modify amino acids or other proteins.
You can even design completely new molecules using the Periodic Table.
With this level of accuracy at a nano scale, chemicals, atoms and proteins that are too small to gain a 3-D perspective and understanding with our hands become more accessible to our brains.
Nanome’s mission is to “democratize science, engineering, and research using Virtual Reality and Blockchain technology,” according to the release. They have worked for years already in the pharmaceutical cyber-market to research products for customers that use chemical structures to build their own drug solutions. This release marks the culmination of all that hard work.
“We build intelligent virtual reality interfaces that enable scientists and engineers to collaborate, design and simulate with nanoscale precision.
“Our software helps advance research and development in life sciences, materials sciences, and nano-engineering through hands-on virtual reality interfaces,” Nanome’s mission statement says. The company has created another tool called Calc Flow, which is open source, as a part of that mission.
So why are fifteen of San Diego’s top pharmaceutical and engineering minds focused on an educational virtual atom-building tool?
McCloskey, Hessenauer and their team agree that VR is the technology that marks the next wave in scientific thought and discovery.
“VR brings us back to our primitive nature,” McCloskey said. “Everything we’ve ever created as a species has been hands-on and in 3D. So, in the 21st century, why aren’t we experimenting in 3D?”
Image Credit: Nanome Inc., Main Image: Kendra Black