NEXT STEP: The virtual center "is the natural evolution of our shared research interests," says Ashley T. Haase, chair of the microbiology department at the University of Minnesota.
When AIDS researchers physically located in four different states hold a meeting, it almost feels like they're sitting at a table across from each other--but they're really just facing their individual computer screens. They view slides of the human immunodeficiency virus in lymphoid tissue in real time and discuss what they see via virtual reality. Although the slides are in Madison, Wis., the investigators in the other states can manipulate the images, change the magnification, move the stage, or use an arrow to point things out.

All the while, they talk to each other as though they are in the same room. Should one researcher wish to view another scientist's database, he can access it even if he doesn't have the application...

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