Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

How crowdsourcing games help solve scientific problems: Review of current projects

October 6th, 2011 by

crowdsourcing games science

It has been shown that the human capacity has still important advantages over computers.
Scientists have learned to use crowd sourcing tools to improve their research. To achieve cooperation, they present models of the problems in a game like display and challenge the participants to find solutions.

Scientists in Carnegie Mellon University (look up Luis von Ahn) were the first to use human brains to help them solve problems associated with searching for images on the web (computers are not very good at distinguishing images from each other using visual cues). This lead to the development of the ESP Game (to determine objects) and Peekaboom (word association games). They were the first to demonstrate how humans, as they play, can solve problems that computers can’t yet solve. (Google bought a licence to create its own version of the game in 2006 in order to return better search results for its online images).

Universities and academic institutions as well as private companies (look up Mental Matrix by iAppFusion) are now using crowdourcing games to enrich their discoveries. Interestingly, most of the crowd sourcing games are contributing to the study of enzyms and microorganisms:

A. Foldit was founded by the University of Washington Center for Game Science in collaboration with the Baker lab.
In the last decade, scientists repeatedly failed to find a solution to the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus.
The scientists have decided to collect a group of gamers and challenged them to produce an accurate model of the enzyme: users are tasked with folding known proteins and are scored on how well they manage to accomplish this task while taking into consideration the physical properties of the molecule. In less then ten days, the gamers came up with the desired solution.

B. EteRNA is an online game which resembles Tetris or Dr. Mario was developed by Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University researchers to uncover principles for designing molecules of RNA, which biologists believe may be the key regulator for all cellular activity.

C. The Biotic Games project (Stanford University) enables players to interact directly with microorganisms. The game’s “hardware” is a simple console which is hooked up to a lab slide. When players push buttons on the console the microorganisms on the slide react. These reactions are displayed onscreen in real-time via a microscopic camera.


Update: Crowdsourcing games for innovation processes:

By 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes, according to Gartner, Inc. By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.

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3 Responses

  1. Brian Johnson Says:

    That is so awesome! Example A is really cool especially, to think they had spent all that time trying to solve a problem that gamers solved in 10 days. See, gamers have so much talent. It just goes to waste generally haha..

  2. Says:

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  3. Gamification as a tool for innovation | Trendsspotting Says:

    […] has discussed “Gamification” in previous posts in  the context of “collective action” and crowd sourcing […]

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