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Games Science

Harnessing EVE Online For Science (mmorpg.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists and the developers of space MMORPG EVE Online are working on a project to harness the power of the game's huge playerbase to do useful scientific work. The Human Protein Atlas has 13 million images to map, and there's no way a small team of scientists can manage that task alone. CCP Games, the makers of EVE, will try to encourage contribution by creating a mini-game within EVE to train players and get them to do some cataloging. To start, "Project Discovery will feed about a 250,000 images of microscopic cells and tissue that players will then study to identify basic shapes and structures, categorizing the images in a way that will help scientists deduce a given protein's purpose." The developers are confident that the EVE community, which has already come together to support various charity endeavors, will rally behind this noble cause as well. To get players to participate, the devs reward players with loyalty points that have some sort of positive effect within EVE.
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Harnessing EVE Online For Science

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  • by Lodlaiden ( 2767969 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @05:21PM (#50835905)
    If they had an API to request an image and return the results, I'm sure quite a few mobile games would get behind building that in. Way better than click hammering for no purpose.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Not just a few mobile games, but entire goldfarming datacenters would use the API!
      Or do the results have to be atleast somewhat reliable?

      • That's where aggregating and ignoring outliers would help stabilize the results. It would be similar to Googles reCaptcha, which crowd sources Google understanding the address numbers on pictures of houses it's taken.
  • Great idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 30, 2015 @05:22PM (#50835911)

    I'd love to see more game devs do stuff like this.

    Some sort of opt-in system where you could get some sort of benefit for doing it, even if it is only cosmetic in design.
    Forced on people would likely annoy people enough to maliciously abuse the system, sadly. People can be evil.
    Even Google Image Tagging got abused when large numbers of people started tagging images as nigger.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @05:46PM (#50836023)
    Might make more sense to apply computer vision to the problem, have a software based evaluation of the image and then flag promising images to be viewed by actual medical personnel. This is an approach already widely in use today. Scanning sonogram, x-ray, mri, etc imagery for "anomalies" and highlighting those for medical personnel.
    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

      Because they don't have any algorithms that do as good of a job at classifying them as humans do. If you can design one, I'm sure they'll be happy to help you write the paper describing your methodology.

      • Because they don't have any algorithms that do as good of a job at classifying them as humans do. If you can design one, I'm sure they'll be happy to help you write the paper describing your methodology.

        And humans can do a better job evaluating all the other medical imagery I mentioned above, yet computer vision is increasingly used to augment and screen these human evaluations. And we're talking trained medical personnel in these case. Not gamers who received abbreviated and casual training. The fact that a regular person can be quickly trained in these evaluations suggest that machine interpretation is quite feasible.

        And yes, my area of research in grad school was computer vision and this is the sort

        • And yes, my area of research in grad school was computer vision and this is the sort of project someone would do for a master's or phd thesis. If you look through the computer vision literature you will find that machine analysis of medical imagery is a very common research project and that techniques are quite advanced.

          You bet they tried. This problem is a bit harder than some standard image recognition project you'd assign to an undergrad. You also bet that many undergrads have failed at this already.

          • They're probably doing both? The recent mystery star discovery was a result of human analysis of transient light curves which were missed by the current side-effects.

          • And yes, my area of research in grad school was computer vision and this is the sort of project someone would do for a master's or phd thesis. If you look through the computer vision literature you will find that machine analysis of medical imagery is a very common research project and that techniques are quite advanced.

            You bet they tried. This problem is a bit harder than some standard image recognition project you'd assign to an undergrad. You also bet that many undergrads have failed at this already.

            As I said, grad students not undergrads. In particular those who are doing their research in the area of computer vision. Who would be writing a master's or PhD thesis as part of such a project. We are *not* talking about people taking a single computer vision class as an undergrad.

    • Software just isn't good at pattern recognition and this is far from the first project to seek the public's help in these type of things, but this could potentially harness more participation than previous attempts. Zooniverse [zooniverse.org] started with getting people to classify types of galaxies, now they have a few dozen science projects that use the pattern recognition humans do better than computers. These areas of science span physics, anthropology, biology, and linguistics, even a project that you can sift throu
      • Software just isn't good at pattern recognition and this is far from the first project to seek the public's help in these type of things, but this could potentially harness more participation than previous attempts. Zooniverse [zooniverse.org] started with getting people to classify types of galaxies, now they have a few dozen science projects that use the pattern recognition humans do better than computers. These areas of science span physics, anthropology, biology, and linguistics, even a project that you can sift through LHC data to help find exotic matter (haven't done that one so I don't know how good it is. I did the Planet Hunters one for a while and they managed to locate 7 exo-planets that year using the Kepler data.

        Software can be very good at pattern recognition. However all software is not created equal. I'm not talking about software that the scientists wrote themselves, or some computer science grad that had an image processing class or even a single computer vision class. I'm talking about post grad computer science folks doing research in computer vision. Seriously, the sort of things you describe *are* / *have* been done as computer vision projects. Go to a university library and sit down in the computer vision

  • by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @05:47PM (#50836035)

    Has the writer ever actually played eve? It's a game about causing other players as much frustration as possible. And now they want to give the players a chance to mess up something even more important than internet spaceships?

    I think this [splice-bio.com] is a more balanced take on the issue.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, finally, a mini-game for the care-bears while they mine their ore. Perhaps their efforts could be rewarded with tokens redeemable by James315's goons for protection money. But somehow, I, too, think this will only end well for the research scientists. What do the goons think of this plan? What do the Russian botters think of this plan?

      I think what they should work on is a device that can convert asshole rage into electrical power. With EVE, we'd never need fossil fuel again!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The devs insist on causing players as much frustration as possible too. Have you ever set up a POS? Have you ever done it BEFORE the anchoring/onlining times were changed? Have you ever fuelled a POS before fuel blocks? Have you ever trained for a capital, only to have that capital ship nerfed a month after you finally finish the almost two years' skill training to fly it properly. This wouldn't surprise me in the least. They should add this mini-game to all gate jumps in and out of Jita, through the Uedama

  • by Chalex ( 71702 ) on Friday October 30, 2015 @06:56PM (#50836301) Homepage

    Neal Stephenson had this as a plot point in his book REAMDE. An MMORPG had a mini-game where you had to recognize some objects, but actually they were being fed TSA machine images from the airports, looking for dangerous objects in luggage.

  • Sorry but how will they differentiate between the one who actually do the analysis and the ones that just click buttons to get the reward? I thought about speed but some people are pretty good a pattern recognition and will be fast.

    • If a thousand people look at a picture of a circle, and 80 percent say 'it's a circle,' and 20 percent say 'it's a square,' you throw it in the 'probably a circle' pile.

      The idea here, I think, isn't to make positive identifications and what not, but to pre-sort or vet the things to allow the real experts to direct their time and attention more efficiently.

      Note that this is how computers in space tend to work, where you have to worry about a stray cosmic particle flipping a bit in a processor; you have at le

  • It's odd that Zooniverse https://www.zooniverse.org/ [zooniverse.org] hasn't gotten involved with this. They do all sorts of projects that involve humans categorizing or analyzing images, some quite complicated. I don't know if THIS particular project can be simplified enough for the average Joe to work with, but it might be worth a try.

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