Right now I am taking a class through Coursera taught by a Wharton professor Kevin Werbach called Gamification. Gamification is the process of adding game like elements to non-game activities. Gamification makes those non-game activities more fun and engaging. In one lecture, professor Werbach talkes about a gamified research tool called Foldit. This tool is used to help solve protein folding problems.
What is Protein Folding
Proteins folding can be used to help understand how the body works and assist in finding cures for diseases such as HIV and cancer. Solving protein folding is an incredibly complicated problem and requires expensive supercomputers. Interestingly, human intuition is actually better at solving these complex problems than supercomputers. Researchers at the University of Washington decided to tap into the power of the human mind to solve these problems. The researchers turned protein folding into a game. Players score points for finding the best way to fold a protein.
In three weeks the gamers were able to solve problems that researchers had been working on for ten years. They helped to find targets for drugs to neutralize the AIDs virus.
My Experience Protein Folding
I downloaded and played Foldin. It is an extremely unique game. I actually really enjoy it. It gets difficult quickly. I finished the first 10 levels without major problems but am getting stuck on the 11th. In order to beat a level, you need to reach a target score. If you are really close to the target but can’t quite get there, it is really frustrating to start over. I don’t think I have solved any diseases yet because I am still on the 32 introductory levels that teach you the game.