BioGraphr: Science Games on a Biotic Computer

Gerber Lukas C. Doshi Michael C. Kim Honesty Riedel-Kruse Ingmar H.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

The advancement of biotechnology enables novel types of interaction devices, alternative computers, and games. Design principles for effective human interactions on these technologies is still largely unexplored. Here we present the BioGraphr, an interactive tabletop gaming system that enables playful experience and interaction with millions of microorganisms at the millimeter scale: Light patterns (images) are projected into a miniaquarium containing phototactic (i.e. respond to light) Euglena cells, which then arrange into complex dynamic bioconvection patterns within seconds. We characterized the biocomputational properties of the BioGraphr, designed biotic games, and explored novel interactive scientific and artistic activities. Responses by test players indicate fun and meaningful gameplay and emphasize how learning about microscopic biology can be naturally coupled to a “bio-computational” substrate. We derived general humancomputer interaction design lessons for games on biological machines. The BioGraphr is accessible for DIY, museums as well as formal science education as its low-cost version is easy to reproduce, and Euglena cell cultures are long term stable.


Interactive Biotechnology: Design Rules for Integrating Biological Matter into Digital Games

Gerber Lukas C. Kim Honesty Riedel-Kruse Ingmar H.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

In recent years, playful interactions with biological materials, including live organisms, have been increasingly explored and implemented. Such biotic games are motivated and enabled by biotechnological advances and their increasing presence in everyday life constitute a form of human-biology interactions (HBI). Here we systematically discuss the design space for “digital-biology hybrid” games, summarize current best-practice design rules based on recent works, and point to technologies that will enable others to design and utilize similar games to advance this field. In particular, we show how augmentation with overlaid digital objects provides a rich design space, we emphasize the advantages when working with microorganisms and light based stimuli, and we suggest using biotic processing units (BPUs) as the fundamental hardware architecture. In analogy to the history of digital games, we make some predictions on the future evolution of biotic games as the underlying core technologies become readily accessible to practitioners and consumers. We envision that broadening the development of playful interactive biotechnology will benefit game culture, education, citizen science, and arts.