An article from The University of Helsinki

The multitouch microscope integrates two Finnish innovations and brings new dimensions into teaching and research. (Photo: Visa Noronen)

Gigantic multitouch displays become microscopes

Finnish researchers have created an entirely new way of performing microscopy: a large-screen multitouch digital microscope that makes today’s tablet computers look like postage stamps.

The University of Helsinki

Founded in 1640, the University of Helsinki employs almost 4,000 researchers and teachers. It operates on four campuses in Helsinki and at 17 other locations. There are 35,000 students, and a further 30,000 participate in adult education.

By integrating two existing Finnish technologies – web-based virtual microscopy and a giant multitouch display – researchers have come up with an exciting new way of doing microscopy.

The new microscope is developed by researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) in collaboration with Finnish screen manufacturer MultiTouch.

By touching a table- or even wall-sized screen, the user can navigate and zoom within a microscope sample in the same way as in a conventional microscope. Using the touch control it is possible to move from the natural size of the sample to a 1000-fold magnification, at which cells and even subcellular details can be seen.

“Traditional microscopes can only be used to digitise a small part of a sample,” says MD Johan Lundin, of FIMM. “Virtual microscopy can be used to create a comprehensive montage of the sample. The montage can consist of as many as 50,000 images.”

Useful teaching tool

The multitouch microscope is suitable for several scientific fields, including pathology, microbiology and cell biology.

“It can be used in all fields in which microscopy is needed. The multitouch microscope is particularly useful in teaching,” says Lundin.

“Our new microscope makes teaching a lot easier than with a traditional microscope, which typically only allows one person to examine a sample at a time. The multitouch microscope adds a new, interactive dimension to teaching.”

The smallest multitouch microscope has a 46-inch screen. Several people can examine the same sample from a display that has been placed on a desk, for example.

Lundin believes that within the next ten years, all training related to microscopes will become digital.

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