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Innovation Showcase 2013 / Marni Usheroff

DIY Biotic Video Games at a Lab Near You

Marni Usheroff/ @musheroff

Marni Image

A dozen students huddled over a long table crammed with laptops, spools of wire and a dozen plastic stands resembling dollhouse-sized twin beds. They passed around a small jar labeled “PARAMECIUM CAUDATUM,” sucking out an eyedropper full of
liquid and then carefully squeezing a few beads into a square-shaped pool on their plastic stands.One student’s laptop screen filled with what looked like a flurry of white rice grains zooming erratically around the pool. She grasped a tiny joystick connected to her stand and gently pushed it in a circular motion while keeping her eyes glued to the
screen. The flurry of rice grains, as if on cue, suddenly started swimming around the pool
in a synchronized circle.This group of DIY enthusiasts was learning how to build their own living video games at a community biolab in Brooklyn called Genspace. The instructors, computer programmer Geva Patz and biologist Dr. Ellen Jorgensen, are part of an emerging biotic video game movement spanning the globe. It includes Swiss nanotechnologist and artist Dr. Marc Dusseiller who has been teaching open source DIY biotic game classes at a
university in Zurich and public workshops around the world and Stanford biophysicist
Dr. Ingmar Riedel-Kruse who published a paper on the topic and teaches undergraduates
how to make these games.While many people are incredibly energized by this new hybrid media format,some, including Romanian veterinarian Dr. Liviu Gaita, are appalled by the manipulationof living organisms for fun.This magazine article includes interviews with Gaita, bioethicist Dr. Gregory Kaebnick, Patz, Jorgensen, Dusseiller and Riedel-Kruse as well as observations from the DIY class taught at Genspace.

HOW ITS MADE

Footage of Biosnake courtesy of Dr. Marc Dusseiller http://goo.gl/YkKOk Footage of Ciliaball courtesy of Dr. Ingmar Riedel-Kruse & Lab on a Chip http://goo.gl/YMPoS

INNOVATION SHOWCASE 2013 • MAY 18TH, 12PM – 4PM • COLUMBIA JOURNALISM SCHOOL