A Framework for Scientific Discovery through Video Games

A Framework for Scientific Discovery through Video Games

Seth Cooper ,
ISBN: 9781627055048 | PDF ISBN: 9781627055055
Hardcover ISBN:9781627055437
Copyright © 2014 | 135 Pages | Publication Date: 06/01/2014

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Published by the Association for Computing Machinery and Morgan & Claypool.

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As science becomes increasingly computational, the limits of what is computationally tractable become a barrier to scientific progress. Many scientific problems, however, are amenable to human problem solving skills that complement computational power. By leveraging these skills on a larger scale---beyond the relatively few individuals currently engaged in scientific inquiry---there is the potential for new scientific discoveries. This book presents a framework for mapping open scientific problems into video games. The game framework combines computational power with human problem solving and creativity to work toward solving scientific problems that neither computers nor humans could previously solve alone. To maximize the potential contributors to scientific discovery, the framework designs a game to be played by people with no formal scientific background and incentivizes long-term engagement with a myriad of collaborative or competitive reward structures. The framework allows for the continual coevolution of the players and the game to each other: as players gain expertise through gameplay, the game changes to become a better tool. The framework is validated by being applied to proteomics problems with the video game Foldit. Foldit players have contributed to novel discoveries in protein structure prediction, protein design, and protein structure refinement algorithms. The coevolution of human problem solving and computer tools in an incentivized game framework is an exciting new scientific pathway that can lead to discoveries currently unreachable by other methods.

Table of Contents

Related Literature
Protein Structure Prediction
Protein Design
Protein Structure Refinement Algorithms

About the Author(s)

Seth Cooper , University of Washington
Seth Cooper is an Assistant Professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University and a member of the Playable Innovative Technologies Lab. He received his PhD in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington. His dissertation, "A Framework for Scientific Discovery through Video Games," advised by Zoran Popovic, won the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2011. His current research focuses on using video games to solve difficult scientific problems; and he has delivered multiple TED talks on the topic. He is the co-creator of the scientific discovery games Foldit and Nanocrafter and early math educational games including Refraction and Treefrog Treasure. Seth has also done research in real-time animation for games, often in the motion capture lab. Prior to his post at University of Washington, Seth worked at the Center for Game Science (as Creative Director), Square Enix, Electronic Arts, Pixar Animation Studios and the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (on BOINC, the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing).


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