AIDS Research Progress through Online Gaming

Perhaps you’ve already this exciting news:

Over a three-week period, gamers playing Foldit, an online protein-folding game, helped to map out the structure of an enzyme that could be used to help fight HIV and AIDS.

What the gamers were able to accomplish in unlocking the structure of a protein called M-PMV was something that scientists, engineers and automated computer programs haven’t been to pull off in about a decade’s worth of attempts, according to a study published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

This online game, which I’ve referenced several times before, provides a prime example of the open source phenomenon spreading beyond software programming.  It’s interesting to consider why scientific discovery might provide a ripe field for such collaboration.  I’ve yet to see examples as successful in areas such as government, supply chain planning, or other areas of personal interest.  Here’s to hoping that we do see such examples, and in short order.

Crowd-Sourcing Your Supply Chain?

One of my major contentions about the ‘Information Age’ is that it, in certain cases, shifts the balance between proprietary control and crowd participation: Connecting more and more people in intensifying interactions across great distances cannot but create such new opportunities.

My current studies focus on Supply Chain Management and I am therefore curious to find opportunities for ‘crowd-sourcing’ some basic business functions involved in the fields of procurement, sourcing, logistics, etc.

My supposition is that there must exist some areas of these fields which are ripe for revolutionary crowd-sourcing activity.  I’d like to share a few questions/thoughts with the hope of provoking conversation about where, specifically, such opportunities might be found:

+What if a large company presented a supply chain problem to the general public (or, perhaps, to lightly vetted, interested persons) and offered a reward, a commission, or perhaps, nothing other than recognition, to those who could put together the pieces of a supply chain strategy that would save money?

+Could such a problem be presented as a game, such as Foldit, which presents scientific problems in a gaming format?

+Clearly, a rich database of potential suppliers would have to be developed to make this problem tractable.

+Such an idea would likely have to be implemented in a very simple, relatively risk-free setting, at first, in order to understand some of the risks.

Feel free to call me crazy; but please check back in with me in twenty years before you finalize your conclusion.

Collaborative Production: Biological Sciences Edition

As in software and industrial supply chains, so in biological sciences . . .

A recent Scientific American article details how collaboration in an online protein-folding game is helping scientists solve biomolecular puzzles:

When the researchers analyzed the strategies employed by a group of 57,000 Foldit players, they found that humans were better at some aspects of pattern recognition and protein structure prediction than current computational software. (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, for the reference and the excerpt)

Expect more surprises.

Health Gaming

I recently spoke to a pioneer in health gaming, who explained to me that there are four types of health games:

+exergames: think of the Nintendo Wii, where you are actually required to work out in order to play certain games

+condition management: games that help a person learn more about a condition and even, perhaps, that add a dimension of fun to the monotony of treatment (examples: Re-Mission, which I have not played, looks to be an intriguing game for young people with cancer; Bayer recently released DIDGET, which rewards user with points and game access codes, after it verifies successful glucose management through a plug-in monitoring system)

+training games: simulations for health professionals, for instance

+nutrition games: similar to condition management games in terms of its educational and behavioral management aspects

We all know that many people learn through visual and/or interactive methods.  That’s one reason we should expect health gaming to be increasingly important in future public health efforts.  And, games are almost universally appealing: expect the phenomenon to go global.