A Crowdsourcing Game to Diagnose Malaria

Written by Ramon Nuez

The Crowdsourcing Survey

According to a 2010 Weber Shandwick survey, 44% of the 216 Fortune 2000 Corporate Executives, interviewed, have used crowdsourcing.

And 50% of these executives find crowdsourcing very valuable. The perceived value is spread unevenly across 4 key aspects:

  1. Surfaces new perspectives and diverse opinions (36%)
  2. Builds engagement and relationships with key audiences (25%)
  3. Invites clients and customers from nontraditional sources to contribute ideas and opinions (22%)
  4. Brings new energy into the process of generating ideas and content (16%)

Now while it’s not surprising that executives’ are using crowdsourcing to mainly generate new perspectives and diverse opinions – it’s a rather run of the mill use of crowdsourcing.

What if I told you, that crowdsourcing can do more than merelybuild engagement and relationships? What if I told you, that crowdsourcing can be used to train non-pathologists to identify malaria-infected red blood cells?

And how might you ask is this possible – well by playing a game, of course.

The Malaria Game

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) researchers have developed an online gaming system, which is available to anyone. You can play the game from any Web browser or Android device. Fortunately, you just can’t jump in and start playing. The University first makes you go through a brief malaria tutorial.

After the tutorial there is a test. The test consists of 261 images and the gamer is required to score 99% (or better) before actually playing the game. If you do not score 99% then you play the game again – until a score of 99% is achieved.

“The idea is, if you carefully combine the decisions of people — even non-experts — they become very competitive,” said Aydogan Ozcan, an associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering and the corresponding author of the crowd-sourcing research. “Also, if you just look at one person’s response, it may be OK, but that one person will inevitably make some mistakes. But if you combine 10 to 20, maybe 50 non-expert gamers together, you improve your accuracy greatly in terms of analysis.”

Currently, malaria affects around 210 million people annually. And ULCA researchers see crowdsourcing as a powerful tool that can help overcome the current limitations in diagnosing this deadly disease. So by using the crowd — malaria diagnosis can occur at a much faster pace and at no – or little — cost.

Conclusion

The use of gaming mechanics and crowdsourcing are an incredible duo. I am curious to see if the researchers will also use the gaming data to build a real-time crowdsourced map of malaria? And 12 months from now, I am also hoping that UCLA will be able to tell us the impact that crowdsourcing had on the reduction of malaria.

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About Author

About Author

Ramon Nuez

Ramon Nuez is a founder, fine arts photographer, digital artist, writer and wannabe harmonica player.

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