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An Open Architecture for Virtual Reality in
Nano-scale Manipulation, Measurement and Manufacturing(m3)

Kevin Lyons* and Yong Wang

National Institute of Standards & Technology,
Gaithersburg, MD 20886 USA

This is an abstract for a presentation given at the
Eighth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.


Nanotechnology has emerged to be the new frontier in science and technology. The essence of nanotechnology is the ability to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create large structures or devices with fundamentally new molecular organization. The size-related challenge is the ability to measure, manipulate, and assemble matter with features on the scale of 1-100nm. Virtual reality (VR) techniques are currently being explored in nano science and technology research as a way to provide researchers an intuitive way to interact with matters and devices in nano-scale.

The goal of the "Virtual Reality in Nano-scale Manipulation, Measurement and Manufacturing" effort at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is to develop an open architecture for users to incorporate powerful VR functionality in nano-related research in a standard way. The architecture covers generalized VR related issues and more importantly covers issues that are specific to nanotechnology. The former topic includes developing and defining framework requirements and specifications to enable coordination and synchronization of visual, haptic, audio, and other forms of input, feedback and response. The latter involves determination of methods that support the incorporation of various physics-based models and addresses such issues as the definition of boundaries where each physics-based model is applicable and transition between dominant forces associated with each model. Standardized interfaces and methods will be developed to allow proprietary models from different sources to plug-play in the framework.

With the developed open architecture, the project will implement a VR environment that can address two related types yet fundamentally different applications. The first application is what is typically called off-line analysis. The will include incorporation of appropriate physics-based models for exploring and evaluating nano-scale m3 options. The system will provide certain feedback through selected audio, visual, and haptic devices to assist in guiding the user toward a better understanding of the problems that will be encountered when m3 of these components or evaluating and comparing options for m3. The second application is using the synthetic environment to "in real-time" manipulate, measure, or manufacture the actual device. The VR system, in essence, provides the view of the nano-size device and through a haptic device will affect the control of the m3 equipment. Specifically, the architecture will be initially focused to support correlation of certain nano-scale manipulation devices and instruments (e.g. optical tweezers) to VR devices (e.g., haptic devices). The functionality will further enable real-time control of nano-scale m3 devices in the VR environment.

The project invites research partners to participate in refining and verifying the architecture design and also welcome researchers to use and test the virtual environment to assist and facilitate their specific research fields and projects.

*Corresponding Address:
Kevin Lyons or Yong Wang
National Institute of Standards & Technology
100 Bureau Dr. Stop 8260
Gaithersburg, MD 20886 USA
Tel: (301)975-3526, (301)975-6550


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