Augment your reality with some new ant species- in 3D.
Ever wanted your taxonomic revision with its own custom-made iphone app?
Here in the lab we are always looking for ways to make taxonomic work more exciting and engaging, and we believe that technology can help us connect people with biodiversity in new ways. We have previously been exploring the use of 3D x-ray imaging for enhancing taxonomic revisions (remember the dragon ants?). But one nice thing about 3D imaging is these data can travel to many endpoints, everything from an image on your computer monitor to a physical 3D print or to virtual or augmented reality.
We were wondering how augmented reality might help enhance taxonomic revisions, and scientific papers in general. Imagine as you flip through a paper 3D figures and images pop out of the page and float on your desk. How much more exciting would that be as a way to experience new species?
Some time ago, Eli Sarnat and many of our lab members decided to revise the Fijian Strumigenys, just a little project to organize one of the coolest endemic radiations in Fiji and describe some new species. But to push it further, we thought we would see if we could do it with augmented reality enhancement. After lots of testing and looking around, we hired an app dev team based in Ukraine to code us up a custom app to display species models, 3D rangemaps, and automatically project 3D figures. The result, Insects3D, can be downloaded at the app store for iphone. Check it out, especially while reading the open source paper from Insect Systematics & Diversity. While primitive and not at all simple or fast enough to achieve for all taxonomic works, we hope it shows an inkling of what’s possible in the future. Let us know what you think!