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Ami - The Chemist's Amanuensis

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Brooks, Brian J 
Thorn, Adam L 
Smith, Matthew 
Matthews, Peter 
Chen, Shaoming 


Abstract The Ami project was a six month Rapid Innovation project sponsored by JISC to explore the Virtual Research Environment space. The project brainstormed with chemists and decided to investigate ways to facilitate monitoring and collection of experimental data. A frequently encountered use-case was identified of how the chemist reaches the end of an experiment, but finds an unexpected result. The ability to replay events can significantly help make sense of how things progressed. The project therefore concentrated on collecting a variety of dimensions of ancillary data - data that would not normally be collected due to practicality constraints. There were three main areas of investigation: 1) Development of a monitoring tool using infrared and ultrasonic sensors; 2) Time-lapse motion video capture (for example, videoing 5 seconds in every 60); and 3) Activity-driven video monitoring of the fume cupboard environs. The Ami client application was developed to control these separate logging functions. The application builds up a timeline of the events in the experiment and around the fume cupboard. The videos and data logs can then be reviewed after the experiment in order to help the chemist determine the exact timings and conditions used. The project experimented with ways in which a Microsoft Kinect could be used in a laboratory setting. Investigations suggest that it would not be an ideal device for controlling a mouse, but it shows promise for usages such as manipulating virtual molecules.


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