Saturday, July 18, 2009

Games motivating human computing power

Tasks like image recognition can generally not be reliably performed by computers yet, but for humans this is relatively easy. While I would say that the scope of computational physics essentially involves problems that are too complex to be solved by hand, there are problems where intuition will help finding a solution instead of barely relying on e.g. brute force computational-only approaches, i.e. the road from theory(thinking/modeling) to computational physics would be extended once more by cognitive power.

In the following I've listed three projects in the order I've come across them, each of them one step closer to the use of parallel human computing power in the field of computational condensed matter physics.

Read on

In this first video, Luis von Ahn illustrates how a large crowd can be motivated using "games with a purpose" to e.g. label images or to build up common-sense facts databases.

This video is about the game "Foldit", in which the score of a player is based on the optimality of a interactively folded protein.

In the following video, the spectral game (link; journal ref) is introduced.

It is intended as an educational game, but I guess a similar game could aim at predicting crystal structures by allowing the player to select a space group and to choose the sites of the elements of a given formula - the score would be based on how well e.g. powder diffraction patterns are reproduced (however, I have to admit that this wouldn't be a game I'd like to play). More fun could be the interactive construction of candidate structures by "mating" given starting cells (mixing slices etc.), in the spirit of genetic algorithm approaches to the crystal symmetry prediction problem.

Since "knowledge/intuition-based image processing" is something where games are very useful, it would be nice if "less visual" problems could be mapped onto kind of a 2D-image analysis problem.

1 comment:

  1. I like the interactive/visual/geometric genetic algorithm game idea. There are the so-called "human-based genetic algorithms", which provide inter alia strategies to combine/mate/merge/optimize the results of two independent human computations (link). I think this would be really fun in a game; instead of playing against each other, players would form a team mutually improving their results.