cloud-streamed interactive Molecular Dynamics in virtual reality

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Dr. David Glowacki and co-workers, working with academic colleagues from high-performance computing (HPC) and human-computer interaction (HCI), and industrial collaborators from Interactive Scientific and Oracle, has just published an open-access paper to the arXiv, outlining his group’s latest work in developing and testing a rigorous VR-enabled, multi-person, real-time interactive Molecular Dynamics (iMD) framework.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, visit isci.itch.io/nsb-imd to download a beta version of the app. Once you’ve launched the app, you can initialize a cloud-hosted interactive simulation instance on any of three Oracle cloud servers (at the moment we’re running on servers in Frankfurt, Germany; Phoenix, USA; and Washington DC, USA). Having selected a server & established a connection, you can attempt any of the molecular simulation tasks discussed in the paper (playing with a buckminsterfullerene molecule, threading methane through a nanotube, changing the screw-sense of a helicene molecule, and even tying a knot in a 17-Alanine peptide).

The paper presents the results of HCI experiments showing that VR (we used the HTC Vive setup) enables users to carry out 3d molecular simulation tasks extremely efficiently compared to other platforms. If you don’t have an HTC Vive, then this paper might be the perfect excuse to acquire one! But failing that, don’t worry: the app runs on wide range of architectures, including Android phones/tablets, and also Mac/Windows laptops/desktops. I have it running on my Samsung S6 phone for example: real-time MD streamed from the cloud right to my phone, which I can interactively steer using my phone’s touchcreen! Have fun & feel free to get in touch with David Glowacki if you’re interested in this work.

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