Jan 242011

Biotic Video Games

A common criticism of single-player video games is that they isolate their players, shutting them off from anything or anyone that exists in the real world.

Well, that certainly can’t be said of the lab-based “biotic games” created by Stanford University physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse – while they may be fashioned after arcade classics, his games require players to manipulate living microorganisms in real time. If you want to “kick” a soccer ball into a net, for instance, you have to get an actual paramecium to do it for you.

The gaming hardware is based around a small fluid chamber containing paramecia, with a video microscope attached to it. The feed from the camera is sent to a computer, where it is superimposed over the various game grids. A microprocessor tracks the movements of the paramecia, and keeps score as they unknowingly move through the grid with which their images are being combined.

Using a home gaming system-like controller, players attempt to influence the movement of the microorganisms by doing things such as varying the polarity of a mild electrical field that is being applied to the chamber, or releasing whiffs of chemicals from one side or the other.

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