The EyeWire Games: A Competitive Neuron Mapping Game by MIT

Gamification has been a recurring theme of mine for the past year, and actually (based on a recent search I did of my posts) since the early days of the blog. Not surprising, since I'm a huge fan of incorporating game design principles to solving everyday problems. Which of course means that I. Love. This.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is trying to map neurons and the job is daunting and slow and the number of insanely powerful computers that would be required to process all the information (and still generate errors) far exceeds their budgets. So you know how they are solving this problem? By using humans. And not just any humans, YOU! (potentially)

You see, the fine folks at MIT’s Seung Lab have created EyeWire,
a game that will enlist “citizen scientists” to analyze nanoscale brain images using web browsers and mobile devices. They will trace the “wires” of the brain as if absorbed in play with a 3D jigsaw puzzle consisting of image pieces computed by artificial intelligence. (Source: Eyewire blog
Credit: Eyewire blog
How simple is that? You solve puzzles, they solve the brain. Win-win!

And it gets even better. Last week, they launched the EyeWire Games, a short 7-day competition in which you can join a team based on the social network from which you discovered Eyewire, and compete with teams from different social networks to see who can solve more puzzles. Every day, the Eyewire team updates the leaderboard (as of the time of writing, Facebook has the most points, with Team X (Veterans), Reddit, Twitter and Google+ trailing closely behind).

Ok, to be honest, the Twitter and Google+ teams are in right sorry states. Guess Facebookers like their puzzles!  And apparently Redditors who managed to crash the Eyewire servers within a day of the launch back in December. (Doh! Being Internet famous has its drawbacks, apparently.)

If you have some time to kill at work over your lunch hour, on your commute or after you put the kids to bed, you might want to participate in the games. But act quickly: the competition started on the 13th, so it ends... tomorrow! Luckily, the game will still be active and you can continue mapping neurons after the competition ends.

If you like puzzles and brain science, this might be a great way to spend some of your free time.

Credit: Eyewire Blog
(Source: 100 XP points to @macjudith for another great find)