February 15, 2018 (Vol. 38, No. 4)
Strong Points: Good introduction, smooth interface
Weak Points: Nothing major
Couple the recent enthusiasm for “citizen science” with the ability to distribute computationally demanding (and time-intensive) tasks among many people and you open up a world of exciting possibilities. Take, for example, Mozak—a crowd-sourced effort by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science and the Allen Institute for Brain Science to reconstruct individual neurons within real brain volumes imaged with electron microscopy. This tedious task (which is often assigned to patient undergraduate researchers and research technicians) is made more enjoyable by presenting it as an online video game, complete with individual “quests” that players are challenged to conquer. Throughout the introductory quests, players are gradually introduced to the task at hand and the tools that are at their disposal to complete the quests. For example, players are taught how to trace along neural processes, delete aberrant traces, and tweak their handiwork to make it more accurate. Never before has an online pastime yielded such benefits to science!