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Using Immersive Virtual Reality for Visualizing and Modeling of Molecular Nanosystems

R. Stevens* and I.R. Judson

Argonne National Laboratory
Office A-119, Bldg. 221
Argonne, IL 60441
This is an abstract for a talk to be given at the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology. There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.
The Argonne Futures Lab group is exploring the use of spatially immersive virtual reality systems (e.g., CAVEå and ImmersaDeskå ) for interactive modeling and visualization of nanotechnology relevant molecular systems. Traditional 3D orthographic displays do not provide the user with a natural or intuitive way to interact with such systems, because of the complexity, novelty, and scale of systems relevant to nanotechnology. The goal of our work is to characterize the role that immersive virtual reality can play in improving the user's effectiveness in conceiving, modeling, and understanding large-scale molecular nanostructures. Spatially immersive display (SID) devices surround the user in real space with a 3D computer-generated visual and audio scene that is responsive to the user's point of view, orientation, and action. SIDs typically are based on multiple large-format stereo projection systems and can provide 3D views to multiple users. We believe that immersive technology will improve a design team's ability to develop physical "3D intuition" for structure, mechanism and synthesis pathways of large-scale molecular designs. We also believe that nanotechnology CAD environments must be usable by several people simultaneously (ideally as part of a collaboratory or collaborative design environment) and that SIDs offer significant advantages relative to traditional displays or head mounted displays for collaboratively designing and exploring engineered molecular structures.

We will report on the results of a set of experiments comparing nonimmersive, partially immersive and fully immersive display systems on a set of common tasks associated with the engineering, modeling and design of structures relevant to nanotechnology. In particular we are studying single and multiple-user "projection/pursuit" tasks such as determining the location of defects in complex molecular lattices, understanding the dynamics of molecule-molecule interactions, and determining optimal space filling molecular designs.


Also if space and time permits we will report on the role and effectiveness of including explicit collaboration support in the modeling and visualization software environment.

*Corresponding Address:
Rick Stevens, Argonne National Laboratory, Office A-119 Bldg. 221, Argonne, IL 60441, ph: 630-252-3378, fax: 630-252-5986, email:
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