We've open-sourced the VR framework!


BRISTOL - SimuLitix is happy to announce that they have open sourced a multi-person virtual-reality enabled real-time simulation framework which lets groups of researchers go into VR, and touch molecular objects as if they were tangible objects. The technology has its roots in an EPSRC and Royal Society-funded ‘Open Lab’ residency organised by Dr. David Glowacki in Jan 2016 at at London’s Barbican Arts Centre in Jan 2016, involving participants from his University of Bristol research lab and Phill Tew from Interactive Scientific Ltd. The last couple years have seen further developments to the software by Glowacki and research colleagues, described in a 2018 open-access paper in Science Advances. Glowacki said, “The project is called ‘Narupa’, which combines the prefix ‘nano’ with the suffix ‘arupa’, a Sanskrit word describing non-physical and non-material objects. It seemed to us a good concept for describing what it’s like to interact with simulated nanoscale objects.”

Glowacki spun SimuLitix out of iSci in July 2018, as a vehicle for exploring opportunities to use state-of-the-art computational tools to transform scientific simulation workflows within academic and industrial nanotechnology research, in domains like materials science, catalysis, and pharmaceutical science. Glowacki co-founded iSci 2013 with Phill Tew and Laura Kriefman, but he has since stepped down from his iSci board position to concentrate on the SimuLitix project, where he serves as chief scientist. During summer 2018, Glowacki worked with the iSci leadership (Phil Tew, Becky Sage, Rick Chapman) to engineer a ‘sister company’ relationship whereby iSci holds an equity stake in SimuLitix. Over the near term, the two companies will operate in parallel, with SimuLitix focusing on nanotech research and engineering, and iSci developing new strategies for interdisciplinary science education.

As a Royal Society and Philip Leverhulme research fellow, Glowacki’s University of Bristol laboratory has been pioneering methods and tools for applying VR to better understand and predict molecular behaviour. Glowacki said “I am excited about the future of virtual reality, and how it can be combined with supercomputing to accelerate our ability to understand difficult concepts in nanotech design and engineering research. Technologies like VR have the potential to transform research workflows across a range of engineering and research domains, and I am delighted to open-source this software under GPL. Free and open source software encapsulates the same sorts of values, philosophy, and approach that has driven scientific enquiry for centuries. As we strive to build a diverse community of users, developers, and researchers, GPL ensures that our open tools will benefit from continuous peer review, ensuring that their scientific foundations remain strong.”

Since opening the project to the intellectual and cultural commons, international research colleagues in both academia and industry have joined SimuLitix in their community efforts. Glowacki said, “It’s exciting to observe how the SimuLitix ethos has already inspired my research colleagues to release open-source versions of their own simulation codes, in order to participate in our community. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and I look forward to seeing the applications and collaborations that emerge as researchers across academia and industry experiment with these new tools.”