Using VR to explore the inner world of a plant cell

September 19, 2016 by Teresa Belcher, Sciencenetwork Wa, Science Network WA
Using VR to explore the inner world of a plant cell
Checking out the Virtual Plant Cell at the Perth Science Festival. Credit: James Campbell

The newly launched Virtual Plant Cell is a phone app that allows users to explore and interact with the microscopic inner world of a plant cell.

The newly-launched Virtual Plant Cell (VPC) is a that allows users to explore and interact with the microscopic inner world of a . Smart phones provide an easy and relatively cheap way to run this experience.

Virtual reality (VR) is truly taking off as a mainstream technology in 2016 according to Science Communications Officer for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at UWA Karina Price, who led VPC development.

"Essentially we have an app that will run on a phone and is viewed through VR headgear to achieve immersion", she says.

VPC was launched during National Science Week with the public stepping inside the cell first at the Perth Science Festival and then at Scitech as part of the World Biotech Tour.

Ms Price says within VPC there is a free activity where the user can move around the cell and learn about its parts, such as visiting a chloroplast, mitochondria or watching as DNA swirls overhead in the nucleus.

There are also two challenges.

"With one, the user must find and collect salt and "shoot" it to remove it from the cell and help the plant survive salty conditions," she says.

"In a second, the user must locate genes within the plant's DNA to help it survive different environmental challenges such as drought, excessive sunlight, flooding and infection."

VPC came about following a meeting between Ms Price and Jonathan Knispel from Augmented and Virtual Reality Labs (AVRL), earlier this year.

"I was seeking innovative ways to educate the community, and AVRL are accelerating VR capacity in Perth. It was a fortuitous meeting that has led to an amazing outcome," she says.

"We'd already found immersive approaches—such as our Bio-Bounce inflatable and our full dome Plantarium movie—work really well, so taking this next step into VR didn't take much convincing."

"We're really proud of what we've built, with a lot of attention and much positive feedback from the public during National Science Week".

Ms Price says the Centre hopes to secure funding to continue VPC development to create an educational resource for teaching biology in schools within the next year.

"This is a great way to help kids and the community understand how plants create and use energy, in order to improve agriculture and ultimately increase food production for the future," she says.

Explore further: Very poorly controlled asthma highly prevalent in TENOR II cohort after more than a decade

Related Stories

Samsung VR exec welcomes competition to boost awareness

September 5, 2016

Samsung just released its third virtual-reality headset for its Galaxy phones, while Facebook's Oculus business and HTC have been shipping more powerful systems connected to high-end personal computers. Sony also has an upcoming ...

Helpers for energy acquisition from plants

September 6, 2016

Research into plant cells is far from complete. Scientists under the biochemist Professor Peter Dörmann at Universität Bonn have now succeeded in describing the function of chloroplasts in more detail. These are plant and ...

Recommended for you

Permanent, wireless self-charging system using NIR band

October 8, 2018

As wearable devices are emerging, there are numerous studies on wireless charging systems. Here, a KAIST research team has developed a permanent, wireless self-charging platform for low-power wearable electronics by converting ...

Facebook launches AI video-calling device 'Portal'

October 8, 2018

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is currently dominated by Amazon and ...

Artificial enzymes convert solar energy into hydrogen gas

October 4, 2018

In a new scientific article, researchers at Uppsala University describe how, using a completely new method, they have synthesised an artificial enzyme that functions in the metabolism of living cells. These enzymes can utilize ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.