Narupa: open-source beta exectuble

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We’ve just published an open access article (arxiv.1902.01827) describing Narupa, our open-source multi-person iMD-VR (interactive molecular dynamics in virtual reality) framework. To go along with the article, we’ve published a stable beta executable of Narupa, available at

The executable is effectively a build of the source at If you want to set up your own multi-participant VR lab, instructions are available here.

Narupa provides a few key upgrades on the proof-of-principle iMD-VR framework we published in our 2018 Science Advances paper. Specifically, Narupa enables: (1) multiple participants to cohabit the same iMD-VR environment [as shown in the video at]; (2) molecular simulation experts to set up their own simulations using a flexible force API; (3) the ability to run both the VR client and the force server on local networks; and (4) access to a range of tools (e.g., a flexible selection interface) designed to streamline the use of iMD-VR for research applications like protein-drug binding [as shown in the video at].

There’s lots of exciting updates in the pipeline underway, which will improve the application of iMD-VR to a range of nanotech research problems!

Real-time audio from interactive molecular dynamics

Over the past few years, we’ve been exploring sound as a sensory channel for understanding the physics of real-time interactive molecular dynamics simulations. In the molecular sciences, sound is a vastly underutilized means for data processing, partly because audio representational standards are less well defined compared to graphics. For example, depicting an atom using a sphere is an arbitrary decision, but it’s intelligible owing to the fact that an atom and a sphere are both objects which are spatially delimited. Defining clearly delimited objects in the audio realm is not as straightforward, neither spatially nor compositionally. For example, it is difficult to imagine what constitutes an ‘atomistic’ object in a piece of audio design or music. Our work suggests that sound is best utilized for representing properties which are non-local: potential energy, electrostatic energy, local temperature, strain energy, etc. The non-locality of these properties makes them extremely difficult to visualize using conventional graphical rendering strategies (and even if there were effective strategies, would lead to significant visual congestion).

The video shows a real-time interactive simulation of 17-ALA peptide in which our resident sonification experts (PhD student Alex Jones, Prof. Tom Mitchell, & Prof. Joseph Hyde) track potential energy in real-time, in order to interactively generate sound. The video shows Alex manipulating a small protein from within Narupa, and highlights how the sound responds to dynamical changes in the potential energy. The sound changes as Alex takes the protein from its native folded state to a high-energy knotted state. Eventually, Alex unties the knot, and you can hear as the protein relaxes to a lower energy state.

machine learning from VR-generated data

New paper posted to the arXiv, which I’m really excited about, where we describe how user-guided real-time interactive quantum mechanics (QM) simulations in virtual reality (iMD-VR) can be used to train neural networks to learn QM energy functions. The paper is entitled “Training neural nets to learn reactive potential energy surfaces using interactive quantum chemistry in virtual reality”.

As far as I know, this is the first ever demonstration of real-time interactive QM in VR, something we were able to accomplish through collaboration with Markus Reiher and Alain Vaucher, our colleagues at ETH in Zurich, who worked with us to develop an interface between our VR framework Narupa, and their excellent SCINE quantum chemistry package. Silvia Amabilino and Lars Bratholm have have also done an excellent job making their excellent GPU-accelerated neural network (NN) framework for learning QM potential energy surfaces available as an open-source package on GitHub – see the paper for more details!

Etextile VR data glove experiments


This is some fun stuff that we’ve been building in the Intangible Realities Laboratory! This video shows my perspective as I tie a knot in 17-Alanine using the Narupa framework while wearing the new customized Etextile VR glove prototype designed by Becca Rose & Rachel Freire. Alex Binnie did a great job building the software interface for the gloves. The gloves have been designed specifically to enable efficient pinching and grasping of the sort required in a VR-enabled real-time simulation environment. Stay tuned – we’ll soon be open-sourcing the designs, for both the gloves and for the software interface. Meanwhile, we’ve just posted to the arXiv a paper we’ve written about the design. Stay tuned for more!