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Controlling and scripting laboratory hardware with open-source, intuitive interfaces: OpenFlexure Voice Control and OpenFlexure Blockly.

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Bowman, Richard 
Harrington, Kerrianne 
Wadsworth, William 


Making user interaction with laboratory equipment more convenient and intuitive should promote experimental work and help researchers to complete their tasks efficiently. The most common form of interaction in current instrumentation is either direct tactile, with buttons and knobs, or interfaced through a computer, using a mouse and keyboard. Scripting is another function typical of smart and automated laboratory equipment, yet users are currently required to learn bespoke programming languages and libraries for individual pieces of equipment. In this paper, we present two open-source, novel and intuitive ways of interacting with and scripting laboratory equipment. We choose the OpenFlexure family of microscopes as our exemplar, due to their open-source nature and smart control system. Firstly, we demonstrate 'OpenFlexure Voice Control' to enable users to control the microscope hands-free. Secondly, we present 'OpenFlexure Blockly' which uses the Blockly Visual Programming Language to enable users to easily create scripts for the microscope, using a drag and drop Web interface. We explain the design choices when developing these tools, and discuss more typical use cases and more general applications.



Voice Control, Laboratory Equipment, Hardware/software Interfaces, Visual Programming

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Royal Society open science

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