Thursday, November 13, 2008

Searching for answers with Skype and a scope

Researchers can use Skype video to deploy a group of biologists (or budding student biologists) to collect data, information, and images in the field. Connect a USB microscope to each field laptop and transmit pictures of soil, water, moss, and lichen samples over Skype video. The research group can coordinate field research efforts to their best advantage and send images to remote laboratories, schools, and colleges.
Any field-based research benefits from video transmission tools. You can be digging for arrowheads, pottery shards, or other archeological artifacts with a live webcam or USB microscope serving as a research tool. You can enable a remote expert on the receiving end of the video stream to perform an instant analysis. The scientific tasks can be distributed among field, lab, and academic sites. More researchers can be involved, with less disruption to their own schedules. The research efforts can even be multinational. Skype is currently limited to two video partners at a time, but with some third-party software programs (check out Festoon at www.festooninc. com), video conferencing among more than two people at a time is possible, which multiplies the collaboration efforts of any field-based projects.

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