Mixed Reality at LifeArc: Expanding mixed reality technology to augment laboratory-based research


M Taylor3; R Holyfield2; D Pardoe1
1 LifeArc, UK;  2 University of Birmingham, UK;  3 University of Hertfordshire, UK


In a world which is rapidly becoming more technologically driven, whilst at the same time the practicality of in person collaboration has seen a decrease, augmented reality (AR) wearable devices present a unique opportunity to empower scientists. Unlike virtual reality (VR) in which the user is fully imbedded within an artificial environment, AR allows the user to be fully aware of their surroundings, augmenting their field of view or hearing with pertinent stimuli. These devices hold immense potential for revolutionising the way scientists work in a laboratory environment: with experimental protocols or results available hands-free even in laboratories without computers, remote collaboration for training, project updates, or equipment repairs, and effortless retrieval and viewing of data as it becomes available. To realise these possibilities, an exhaustive review of the current market for AR technology was conducted and two devices were purchased and trialled on-site at LifeArc: the Vuzix Blade Upgraded and the Microsoft HoloLens 2. Both showed advantages and disadvantages regarding their functionalities, connectivity, wearability, and costing. The Vuzix Blade offered a cheaper, lighter, and fully safety certified option with good audio and visual quality for collaboration, however it was limited in terms of the applications currently available on the Vuzix Marketplace. The HoloLens was technologically sophisticated and offered seamless integration with our current software applications including Teams and SharePoint, but was heavier and three times the cost. Although there is a way to go before this technology is truly ready to be distributed company wide, promising current developments by tech-giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple make augmented reality an incredibly exciting field to watch in the next few years and may offer a real solution to fully exploit the capabilities present in the Laboratory of the Future.

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