OMG – I want one: “Smartphone Microscope Lets You Play Games With Microbes”

OMG.  I want one. I want two. No – I want dozens.

Caption from Gizmodo: “Introducing the LudusScope, a 3D-printed, open-sourced system that lets you control and play games with living microbes on your smartphone. Tormenting single-celled organisms has never been so much fun.”

Source: This Smartphone Microscope Lets You Play Games With Microbes


See paper:  Kim H, Gerber LC, Chiu D, Lee SA, Cira NJ, Xia SY, et al. (2016) LudusScope: Accessible Interactive Smartphone Microscopy for Life-Science Education. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0162602. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162602


For centuries, observational microscopy has greatly facilitated biology education, but we still cannot easily and playfully interact with the microscopic world we see. We therefore developed the LudusScope, an accessible, interactive do-it-yourself smartphone microscopy platform that promotes exploratory stimulation and observation of microscopic organisms, in a design that combines the educational modalities of build, play, and inquire. The LudusScope’s touchscreen and joystick allow the selection and stimulation of phototactic microorganisms such as Euglena gracilis with light. Organismal behavior is tracked and displayed in real time, enabling open and structured game play as well as scientific inquiry via quantitative experimentation. Furthermore, we used the Scratch programming language to incorporate biophysical modeling. This platform is designed as an accessible, low-cost educational kit for easy construction and expansion. User testing with both teachers and students demonstrates the educational potential of the LudusScope, and we anticipate additional synergy with the maker movement. Transforming observational microscopy into an interactive experience will make microbiology more tangible to society, and effectively support the interdisciplinary learning required by the Next Generation Science Standards.

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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.