Utilizing social media and video games to control #DIY microscopes

Maxime Leblanc-Latour, Craig Bryan, Andrew E. Pelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Open-source lab equipment is becoming more widespread with the poptdarization of fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, open source microcontrollers and open source software. Although many pieces of common laboratory equipment have been developed, software control of these items is sometimes lacking. Specifically, control software that can be easily implemented and enable user-input and control over multiple platforms (PC, srnartphone, web, etc.). The aim of this proof-of principle study was to develop and implement software for the control of a low-cost, 3D printed microscope. Here, we present two approaches which enable microscope control by exploiting the functionality of the social media platform Twitter or player actions inside of the videogarne Minecraft. The microscope was constructed from a modified web-camera and implemented on a Raspberry Pi computer. Three aspects of microscope control capture focus control and time-lapse imaging. IT] were tested, including single image The Twitter embodiment enabled users to send 'tweets' directly to the microscope. Image data acquired by the microscope was then returned to the user through a Twitter reply and stored permanently on the photo-sharing platform Flickr, along with any relevant rnetadata. Local control of the microscope was also implemented by utilizing the video game Minecraft, in situations where Internet connectivity is not present or stable. A virtual laboratory was constructed inside the Minecraft world and player actions inside the laboratory were linked to specific microscope functions. Here we present the methodology and results of these experiments and discuss possible limitations and future extensions of this work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139
Number of pages16
JournalPeerJ Computer Science
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2017


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