Viano: A Virus Piano

Researchers from the University of York and Goldsmiths University of London are blending mathematics and biology with VR to explain how viruses (including Covid-19) mutate.

‘Viano’, a virus piano, will present the complex science of virus mutation in an accessible and enjoyable way. The experience will be released for public exhibition and home use on tablet and mobile.

By pressing the keys of a virtual piano, users will hear music and see how the shape and structure of the virus mutates as they play. Using advanced computer simulations, the technology will present a visual representation of the virus’ evolutionary dynamics at the level of both genome and protein components according to what key is played.

Viano will use true models of real virus geometry and builds on previous work presented by the research team that was exhibited at The Lowry Museum in 2020: The Herpes Simplex Virus in VR

The technology behind Viano will capitalise on the ‘Mutator VR: Vortex’ engine, a novel VR experience developed under Digital Creativity Labs where viewers are immersed in alien worlds with interactive evolving forms. With Mutator VR already adapted for molecular modelling and visualisation, Viano presents researchers with a new challenge, to modify the technology for use on tablets and mobiles.

Viano will be shown as a VR experience at the Lowry Museum, Salford Quays, in 2022, where visual representations of the virus will be projected onto a 20ft high wall.

Financed by a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fund, the project aims to disseminate research on viruses to a wider audience.

Who’s involved

Goldsmiths University of London & Digital Creativity Labs

Prof. William Latham, Creative Director, Viano; Co-investigator, Digital Creativity Labs; Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London

Dr. Lance Putnam, Lead Programmer, Viano; Researcher, Digital Creativity Labs; Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London

University of York

Prof. Reidun Twarock, York Mathematical and Computational Virology Group; Department of Mathematics, Department of Biology, York Cross-disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis (YCCSA)

Dr. Richard Bingham, York Mathematical and Computational Virology Group; Department of Mathematics, Department of Biology, York Cross-Disciplinary Centre for Systems Analysis (YCCSA).