[chimerax-users] VR and optional functions

Tom Goddard goddard at sonic.net
Thu Oct 26 11:01:24 PDT 2017

Hi Matthias,

  I think VR has potential for viewing structures and density maps.  As Elaine says ChimeraX does only part of what Chimera does but in a few years it should do most of what Chimera does.  Currently there is no surface coloring by radius or by pdb properties, no Segger segmentation, there are clip planes, you can display subvolumes (volume command and mouse mode), not sure what you mean by shaded and wireframe surfaces, sounds basic and does that, biological assemblies are shown with the sym command.  Many ChimeraX features are only available through commands, and Elaine has extensive documentation on the commands


Look over the list of commands to get the best idea of what capabilities are there.  We port capabilities from Chimera every week — it will only take a few years, the code of ChimeraX is all modernized (Qt window toolkit, not Tk, higher performance graphics, new methods to improve performance of large structures, …) so code can’t just be copied over, it takes a lot of work, maybe 20% of the work that went into writing the original Chimera code.  That’s why it will only take a few years instead of the 15 years it took to develop Chimera.  We spend half our time working on new capabilities.  So ChimeraX does many things better than Chimera or not possible in Chimera.

   A VR mode to move just the selected model would be cool and not too hard.  I have had very little time to work on the VR.  There is a pop-up panel of icons that do a few things as described in the vr command documentation.  With the Vive you can switch to view your desktop and click buttons and type, but it is very cumbersome.  First off, typing with a headset on is not reasonable, and many operations require some typing (e.g. to enter a number).  The main trouble with VR is developing user interface when you only have hand controllers.  James Tyrwhitt and NIH developed speech input for ChimeraX so you could do operations by speaking.  There were many techincal issues, but it has great potential for being part of a VR user interface.


> On Oct 25, 2017, at 10:39 PM, Matthias Wolf  wrote:
> Hi Tom et al,
> Great job on chimeraX!
> The rendering engine is incredible.
> I have tried to view our cryo-EM volumes in VR with a new HTC Vive – it’s amazing and it works really well!
> ChimeraX supporting VR was one of the reasons for me to buy the Vive. Thank you!
> Now I haven’t used chimeraX before (I have used chimera since many years).
> I understand that the program is still work in progress. However, I am really missing some of the nice functions of chimera that make it so useful with a “clicky” interface  - e.g. color surface by radius or by pdb properties, segmented isocontoured maps, clipping planes, subvolumes, combined shaded and wireframe surfaces, biological assembly, etc – I find these functions very useful and there don’t seem to exist any command line options for this, or I just haven’t studied them enough yet.
> Many of the existing menus in chimeraX have a fraction of the functionality of their sister program chimera. E.g. volume viewer, model panel, side view – I still have not figured out how to activate only one of several objects for rotation, when in chimera a click on the activate check box in the model panel does that (there is no active checkbox in the model panel of chimeraX and I couldn’t find a command to activate an object). It would be nice if one could simply grab an object in VR and rotate by itself it instead of the entire scene.
> Do you have a plan to add or port some of these beloved GUI functions from chimera into chimeraX?
> Could they be added by copying python modules from chimera? 
> It would be great, if one could press a button in VR on the hand controller to display the menu and select functions “by virtual laser pointer”. This could preserve the development effort that went into the GUI design of chimera by reusing it in chimeraX as an identical projected 2D menu in VR and it would prevent having to take the goggles off for simple model adjustments.
> Best regards,
>    Matthias
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