random thoughts on science and tech... yeah, it used to be about electronic lab notebooks but that was a decade ago

Vision: The Hands Free ELN of the Future

&#160&#160&#160 Endulge my wild imagination for a moment. I’m going to discuss a possible Super ELN which may seem outrageous, but actually is feasible now!
[swfobj src=”http://e-lab-book.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/c1-epoc-content.swf” height=”295″ width=”500″]
&#160&#160&#160I have mused of the ‘Legend’ video recording lab safety glasses in the past. But let’s take it to the extreme.


&#160&#160&#160[Problem]Why do most people not write directly to their lab books as they are performing their research?
I mean, in Academia when I teach a lab class I always feel like 90% of it is exhortation to the students to ‘record what your are doing in your lab notebook’.
&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160Answer- Because they are busy performing their research!


&#160&#160&#160Back to the undergrads- they may not be likely to write in their lab notebooks without constant pressure from me, but they are very likely to have a written procedure sitting right next to them to peruse.
&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160Thus the rationale for ELNs to have a template for a certain lab procedure. But if you diverge from the template/protocol then you need to make note of it in your lab notebook.
[Problem]Again there is a reluctance to always record this since you are in the midst of performing your research. And I must admit that in my ELN usage experience, sometimes I go back over my research from days past (in order to plan for my next experiment) and notice that I neglected to change PCR cycle numbers or gel running times or whatever.


&#160&#160&#160What can be done?
&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160Well, if writing stuff down is going to get in our way, then let’s just not write it down! Heck, we’re scientists for goodness sake – so I think by definition we think we are smart or something. So if we don’t want to do something then we should be smart enough to figure out an alternative, right!?


&#160&#160&#160Sure the ‘Legend’ video recording lab safety glasses allow for us to have a record of what we did without writing things down, but then one of ELN’s major benefits disappears – the ability to quickly and powerfully search your lab notebook. Searching through hours of footage (even in super fast forward) to find something specific seems very unlikely. *But I don’t want to give up this cool gadget in my Super ELN.


[Solution]Neural Impulse Actuator – Brain-computer interface – A headset that can allow you to control things with your mind. Make simple notes in your ELN by thinking, scroll through or change protocols without touching anything!


&#160&#160&#160So here’s the Super ELN of the future – Hand’s free:


A light Tablet PC
&#160&#160&#160w/ touch screen and active digitizer – for when you want to interface in such a way
&#160&#160&#160w/ a wireless connection to the internet where your web based ELN is located




A modified Emotiv like headset
&#160&#160&#160throw in a video cam on the headset to record and take pictures of things when you want



Now- you have a wireless headset and wireless Tablet PC
&#160&#160&#160- take it wherever you are doing your experiments (lab, in the field, at the large hedron collider)
&#160&#160&#160- open it up so you can see the screen
&#160&#160&#160- with your mind call up the template for the experiment you are going to run
&#160&#160&#160- follow the protocol
&#160&#160&#160- whenever you change anything or observe something use your mind to make note
&#160&#160&#160- if you want to take a picture or record your procedure use your mind to turn on the camera.
&#160&#160&#160- while you’re working, you could scroll through or search and find similar experiments you have done in the past to reference!


It’s so seemless, it brings a tear to my eye.


  1. September 15, 2008    

    While I’m at it – I think I would just get rid of the tablet PC and screen all together!

    Instead, just have a screen projected onto your safety glasses and have it hooked up to like an iphone connected to the web. Now you’re REALLY mobile.

    Maybe when 3G really is alot faster this would be possible :). With ‘cloud computing’ I wouldn’t think the hardware (iphone) would have to be too powerful. You would lose out on the active digitizer. but you would get multitouch!?

  2. September 25, 2008    

    The Emotiv headset has been delayed, it was supposed to come out in time for the holiday season. I’m seriously thinking about getting one when it comes out though :)

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