Have some time to kill? Playing free games online is a quick and inexpensive way to have some fun on the web’Farmville, anyone?’but thanks to a team of computer scientists in Montreal, it can also help drive genetic research, reports the CBC. The team, led by McGill’s Jérôme Waldispuhl, is using the popularity of online gaming to unlock genetic puzzles that computers just can’t solve as well as humans.
‘There are some calculations that the human brain does more efficiently than any computer can, such as recognizing a face,’ said Waldispuhl, in a news release. "This is an opportunity for people to use their free time to contribute in an extremely important way to medical research."
The game, called Phylo, allows players to choose a puzzle according to which disease they want to treat. The goal, according to instructions by researchers Alex Kawrykow and Gary Roumanis, is "to help align sequences of DNA by shifting and moving puzzle pieces. Your score depends on how you arrange these pieces." Get a high score and you’ll be featured in the "best contributors" section on the site. Talk about bragging rights!
Interest in the game has been widespread, with thousands of puzzles already solved in the first few days of the game’s public launch. Waldispuhl says that the team has been "amazed" by the response. Next, the team hopes to create mobile- and Facebook-friendly versions of the game.
Contributing to medical research? There’s an app for that’almost.
What do you think of this new game? Have you tried it? Do you want to?