What is a remote lab?

A remote laboratory allows students and educators to access real lab apparatus across the internet, using data acquisition instrumentation and cameras so that the remote apparatus can be controlled and monitored.

Given the broad uniformity of curricula across educational institutions, we have typically seen the same laboratory apparatus and associated experiences being duplicated across numerous institutions. Typically a given set of laboratory apparatus might be very valuable educationally, but only needed within a single institution for relatively short periods. Logistical constraints however make the sharing of facilities between institutions really only possible in very limited cases. The use of remote laboratories provides clear mechanisms for addressing these challenges.

Traditional laboratories require students to be physically present in order to interact with equipment, limiting both student flexibility and sharing of facilities. Remote laboratories however allow students to use the internet to remotely access physical laboratory equipment. The interaction is supported by using sensors and cameras so that the student can monitor the laboratory equipment and actuators so that the equipment can be controlled. Students are still carrying out experiments using real physical equipment, but with much greater flexibility - the access can occur from anywhere and anytime.

Remote access enables equipment (and lessons and expertise) to be shared between many educational institutions. A set of equipment becomes available to enormously larger numbers of students. It also becomes possible to move the equipment out of the laboratory and embed it into real-world contexts.