- Virtual instrumentation
Virtual Instrumentation is the use of customizable software and modular measurement hardware to create user-defined measurement systems, called
Traditional hardware instrumentation systems are made up of pre-defined hardware components, such as
digital multimeters and oscilloscopes that are completely specific to their stimulus, analysis, or measurement function. Because of their hard-coded function, these systems are more limited in their versatility than virtual instrumentation systems. The primary difference between hardware instrumentation and virtual instrumentation is that software is used to replace a large amount of hardware. The software enables complex and expensive hardware to be replaced by already purchased computer hardware; e. g. analog to digital convertercan act as a hardware complement of a virtual oscilloscope, a potentiostatenables frequency responseacquisition and analysis in electrochemical impedance spectroscopywith virtual instrumentation.
The concept of a
synthetic instrumentis a subset of the virtual instrument concept. A synthetic instrument is a kind of virtual instrument that is purely software defined. A synthetic instrument performs a specific synthesis, analysis, or measurement function on completely generic, measurement agnostic hardware. Virtual instruments can still have measurement specific hardware, and tend to emphasize modular hardware approaches that facilitate this specificity. Hardware supporting synthetic instruments is by definition "not" specific to the measurement, nor is it necessarily (or usually) modular.
Leveraging commercially available technologies, such as the PC and the
analog to digital converter, virtual instrumentation has grown significantly since its inception in the late 1970s. Additionally, software packages like National Instruments' LabVIEWand other graphical programminglanguages helped grow adoption by making it easier for non-programmers to develop systems.
* [http://www.abc.chemistry.bsu.by/vi/vi.htm "Virtual Instruments in Electrochemistry"] Accessed January 10, 2006
* [http://www.syntheticinstruments.com "Synthetic Instruments: Concepts and Applications"]
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