Tangible Interactive Microbiology for Informal Science Education

Crosspsting from my Tree of Life blog

This is so cool: Tangible Interactive Microbiology for Informal Science Education.


We present an interactive platform that enables human users to interface with microbiological living cells through a touch-screen, thereby generating a tangible interactive experience with the microscopic world that is hidden to most people. Euglena gracilis, single-celled phototactic microorganisms, are imaged and optically stimulated via a microscope setup equipped with a projector and a touch- screen display. Users can directly interact with these organisms by drawing patterns onto the screen, which displays the real-time magnified view of the microfluidic chamber with the motile euglena cells. The drawings are directly projected onto the chamber, thereby influencing the swimming motion of the cells. We discuss the architecture of the system and provide exploratory user testing results in a facilitated setting, which shows engaging nature of our system for children and the general public. In conclusion, our tangible interactive microscope allows artistic expression and scientific exploration with the ease of “child’s play.”

And check out this video.

I would post a picture here but they discourage it.  So you will just have to go look for yourself.  The PDF is free, at least for now.

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.