Real-time sonification of molecular data in immersive virtual simulation environments

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Molecular representation in virtual reality is a brand-new field of research with a promising future. Both academics and industrialists have become interested in the potential of virtual reality for understanding and designing a wide range of nano-structures, spanning both materials & pharmaceuticals. Dr. David Glowacki's research group is amongst the international leaders in developing and applying brand new classes of commodity virtual reality technology for molecular research applications. Early results are extremely promising, and indicate that natively 3-dimensional ways for visualising and manipulating complex structures afford significant advantages compared to standard 2d displays.
With the use of immersive display environments in scientific visualization likely to become increasingly more common, it becomes immediately obvious how silent these environments are. Our brains are hard-wired to process 3-dimensional auditory information, and its absence in the current generation of virtual immersive displays is striking. We believe that inclusion of data sonification strategies in the virtual world will significantly enhance the researcher's ability to process data and gain insight into molecular structure and dynamics. Compared to our eyes, which have a relatively small dynamic range and a slow time resolution (~25 Hz), our ears have a dynamic range spanning 3 orders of magnitude, and significantly faster time resolution.
During this PhD project, Alex Jones will investigate strategies for sonification of real-time molecular data streams. He will examine how a wide range of molecular data classifiers can be effectively translated into audio streams, and carry out detailed human-computer-interaction studies aimed at investigating the efficacy of these various sonification strategies compared to more traditional graphical representations. For example, one specific area of research will be aimed at investigating the extent to which different parts of a molecule partition kinetic energy across themselves into motions with nodes and anti-nodes, which could be directly translated into sound frequencies and localities.
This is an exciting new research domain, owing to the fact that there are only a handful research papers in total that address the topic of molecular data sonification. During the PhD, Alex Jones will benefit from collaborative links with the following companies: (1) interactive Scientific, a Bristol-based software startup with specialities in immersive scientific simulation environments utilizing virtual and augmented reality; and (2) C4X drug discovery, a Manchester-based pharmaceutical company with interests in using immersive simulation and visualization environments within their own drug discovery pipeline


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509619/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1941682 Studentship EP/N509619/1 01/10/2017 10/10/2021 Alexander Jones