Students Control Lab Experiments Remotely Via App

A group of researchers have developed a system that connects experiments and their robots to the Internet; students can then manage the laboratory settings via smartphone or tablet. The researchers were led by Professor Vikram Kapila and doctoral student Jared Alan Frank of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.


(Remote control lab app)

Regardless of their location, students using these applications can tap into their experiments online and collect and analyze data in real-time. This is beneficial for team members who can’t be physically present during an experiment, or for those that get a brilliant idea while walking about.

The applications also offer multiple modes of interaction, so people with disabilities can can control their experiments with the most appropriate methods. Students can swipe, tap, or speak into their smart device to control their lab settings.

My first encounter with this idea came when I read James Blish's 1957 novel Cities in Flight, which referred to a teleoperated lab robot; a man operating a construction device came upon an unexpected sight in the depths of Jupiter's atmosphere:

...he realized that the moving thing inside was - of course - a robot; a misshapen, many-tentacled thing about twice the size of a man. It was working busily with bottles and flasks, of which it seemed to have thousands on benches and shelves all around it The whole enclosure was a litter of what Helmuth took to be chemical apparatus, and off to one side was an object which might have been a microscope...

The robot looked up at him and gesticulated with two or three tentacles... There was, of course, no way that he could talk to the robot, nor it to him. If he wanted to, he could talk to the person operating it...

A white light began to wink on the ghost board. That would be the incoming line for Europa. Was somebody on that snowball in charge of this many-tentacled [robot]?

"Hello, Europa... Is this your robot I'm looking at, in sector 94?"

"That's me," the voice said. It was impossible to avoid thinking of it coming from the robot itself. "This is Doc Barth. How do you like my laboratory?"

Via psfk.

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