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Play Games Using Live Cells

| 17 Jan 2011 17:28

To increase interest in biology, scientists designed games that you can play with living organisms like PAC-mecium, Biotic Pinball, POND PONG and Ciliaball.

Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, a physicist from Stanford University, leads a team working on "biotic games." These games allow players to manipulate microscopic organisms on a molecular level in real time so that it feels as responsive and fun as simple videogames. PAC-mecium, for example, has you guiding single-celled paramecium to gobble up little balls by changing the polarity of an electrical field, while in Biotic Pinball you inject a blast of chemicals to force the paramecium to swim in a certain direction. Riedel-Kruse's team hopes that people who play these games with a simple game controller will become fascinated with the biological processes at work and want to learn more.

"We hope that by playing games involving biology of a scale too small to see with the naked eye, people will realize how amazing these processes are and they'll get curious and want to know more," Riedel-Kruse said.

In addition, the team hopes that one day real experiments can be designed to be run in this game-like environment to aid in "crowd-sourcing" scientific work. "We are also thinking perhaps we could have people running real experiments as they play these games," he said. "That is something to figure out for the future, what are good research problems which a lay person could really be involved in and make substantial contributions."

The biotic games are played by taking microscope images and graphically imposing a game board on top of them while a CPU interprets the paramecium movements and keeps score. Because of the simple setup, Riedel-Kruse's team was limited to mimicking simple videogames but he's interested to see what the scientific and game design communities might do with these ideas.

"We would argue that modern biotechnology will influence our life at an accelerating pace, most prominently in the personal biomedical choices that we will be faced with more and more often," Riedel-Kruse said. "Therefore everyone should have sufficient knowledge about the basics of biomedicine and biotechnology. Biotic games could promote that."

Source: Science Daily

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