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Playing With Molecules in Virtual Reality

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Designing molecular structures in virtual reality.

A growing number of companies are enabling scientists to use virtual reality to view, design, and manipulate molecular structures.

Credit: Nanome Inc.

A growing number of companies are using virtual reality (VR) to enable scientists to view, design, and manipulate molecular structures.

This strategy is gaining popularity in fields like drug discovery and chemical engineering.

For example, last year researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. created a virtual environment to simulate three-dimensional molecular structures; such visualizations enable researchers to test computational structures against research data.

A brief on the Bristol system on the website of the journal Nature said, "Users wearing off-the-shelf virtual-reality headsets wield handheld motion controllers to 'grab' and manipulate the molecules, threading methane through a carbon nanotube, for example, or tying a knot in a protein. Models running in the cloud do the physics calculations."

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