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Monday Morning Gamification: Games Help AIDS Research

September 19, 2011

This is a very interesting story about the use of games technology in a non-gaming arena:

Researchers have used an online video game, Foldit, involving thousands of players to uncover the structure of a protein that could help in AIDS research.

When playing video games, setting a new high score is seen as somewhat of a major achievement. Likewise, there is nothing more satisfying then unlocking a trophy or an achievement. Well, you may have to rethink what constitutes success as some people have now helped scientists in their quest to discover more about the AIDS virus – makes getting a trophy seem kind of poxy doesn’t it?

Researchers at the University of Washington got people to play a game called Foldit, which required players to fold proteins into intricate shapes in order to discover the structure of an enzyme from a virus similar to AIDS that is present in rhesus monkeys. Knowing the structure of this enzyme could prove key in finding ways of curing AIDS, but obviously there is still a long way to go yet. 57, 000 players took part in the online experiment, and all of them will be credited in the final research paper – that’s going to be one long list of names.

Also see here. Note there is a UK based project that is trying to do similar things called FoldSynth.

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