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How biotic developers combine microorganisms and video games

In a few research labs around the world, researchers are combining microscopic organisms and and video games to create living — or "biotic" — video games, Mashable reports.

A few years ago, Stanford University's Dr. Ingmar H. Riedel-Kruse created a game called Ciliaball, which overlays a virtual soccer field over a pool filled with unicellular organisms called paramecia. The object of the game is to get the microscopic organisms to kick the virtual ball across the field, and players use a controller that applies an electrical charge to the pool. As the paramecia swim away from the charge they kick the virtual ball.

Riedel-Kruse believes that the game is educational and can get children interested in scientific disciplines like biology.

"Kids are really excited if you put a microscope in front of them and they kind of observe these critters," he said. "Kids also play lots of video games, which is very interactive and attractive. If you merge the two, you could imagine what this kind of effect potentiates."

Using biological matter as video game subjects has come under criticism. Dr. Liviu Gaita, a Romanian veterinarian and PETA supporter, characterizes these as "a perfect illustration of how a hideous act can be wrapped as a benign, even educational act."

Riedel-Kruse estimates that about 10 percent of those who see his experiments, like in the video above, wonder about the ethical implications. He points to the Stanford lab's internal ethical standards and the reality that people kill many microorganisms every day when cleaning and using disinfectants.

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