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Biotech Medicine Games Science

Crowdsourcing Game Helps Diagnose Infectious Diseases 25

Lucas123 writes "Researchers at UCLA have created an online crowdsourcing game designed to let players help doctors in key areas of the world speed the lengthy process of distinguishing malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy ones. So far, those playing the game have collectively been able to accurately diagnose malaria-infected blood cells within 1.25% of the accuracy of a pathologist performing the same task (PDF). The researchers hope that users of the game can help eliminate the high cost and sometimes poor accuracy of diagnosis in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria accounts for some 20% of all childhood deaths."
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Crowdsourcing Game Helps Diagnose Infectious Diseases

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  • on one hand, gamers have been known to be gracious and kind enough to donate and keep CHild's play running.

    On the other hand, gamers are dicks.

    I hope this ends well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Usually it's not an issue with crowdsourcing. You rely on maybe 100 or more people classifying the same thing correctly, the key point is collective classification. See Citizen Sky for more examples.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:40AM (#39890253)

      Once the troll population reaches sufficent levels:

      "I have a sore throat and a slight fever."
      *You have AIDS, leprosy, and lupus.*

  • by tomlue ( 2632019 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:30AM (#39890143)
    Whenever I see these games I wonder if there is some effort to solve the task with ml as well. It seems like if you are getting a large number of players then you should have data on how those players are classifying the red blood cells. Given that data we can at least attempt a couple different techniques at a classifier.

    The benefit could be two fold. On one hand a decent classifier could 'help eliminate the high cost and sometimes poor accuracy of diagnosis.' On the other hand if a diagnostician is looking at a blood sample having a classifier give some probability of classification (ie. saying 'this sample is 90% probable to be malaria infected') could help the doctor in their diagnosis.

    I'd love to work on that problem. A very quick search of google scholar and citeseer doesn't pop up anything on the subject though, and I don't see any api on the linked site.
    • What's interesting though is that since you are effectively taking an average (not a mathematical mean necessarily, but broadly speaking an average), any individual answer (even the smart people's answers) could still be worse than the crowdsourced answer. I heard a story on NPR about a crowdsourcing project where this exact thing happened. I am sorry, I can't remember the details. In this case though, you can't necessarily build an algorithm, because it will still give an inferior answer to the crowdsourc
    • A step up from that would be to embed a well trained machine in a simple lab on a chip. Print a few million and package them with a finger lance. If the LED turns red, then you foot your kid to a WHO clinic with proof in your pocket that you need to be at the front of the line. Not to mention the usefulness something like this would have at the same WHO clinic.
    • by chooks ( 71012 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:44AM (#39891065)

      From the referenced PDF:

      we also developed an automated machine learning algorithm to detect the presence of malaria parasites,

  • by game kid ( 805301 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:33AM (#39890185) Homepage

    Signed up, website still works but game is stuck at "Retrieving Authentication" on Firefox 12 and IE8 (my machine with IE9 is getting an overhaul), so guess I'll just have to wait a while to find those buggy blood cells.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Way to go, /. You just let tens of thousands of people with malaria die, you insensitive clods.

  • Would it not be simpler to have the pathologist train a machine learning algorithm and then use that instead of the game?

    • The point of this approach is that machines can make pretty good decisions ~90% of the time, but when a more refined judgment call needs to be made, a human can be provided with an abstract rendition of the data and any relevant context, and can inadvertently perform a useful classification for the solver.

      Its purpose is to solve precisely the kinds of problems that arise when you simply train an ML algorithm with known inputs and outputs, and then encounter an input that appears at least partially ambigu
  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:30PM (#39891681)

    I wonder if these sort of games could be implemented as a sort of Captcha challenge for niche situations. A simple yes/no diagnosis has insufficient complexity to serve as Captcha of course; you'd have to increase the difficulty by presenting a panel of several samples, multiple diseases, or require more detailed responses ("click on the abnormal Red Blood Cells").

    This wouldn't be suitable for use as general purpose Captchas of course; any user seeing it for the first time won't have a clue what they're looking at. Rather, it could be used in settings where you have a body of dedicated users who repeatedly use a service over a long period of time, yet require anonymity without permanent user profiles. Forcing the users to go through initial training could be seen as a bonus, creating an additional obstacle for Mechanical-Turk workers. As an example of such a situation that pairs a persistent user pool with anonymity, consider something like 4chan.

    On the downside, because it's 4chan, half your diagnosis results will be "You have AIDS (Pool's Closed)".

It isn't easy being the parent of a six-year-old. However, it's a pretty small price to pay for having somebody around the house who understands computers.