At Stanford University microbiologists were worried that their field is not attracting young talent because there’s not enough tools and games to play with real microbes. Hoping to overcome this, they developed a smartphone microscopy system, called LudusScope, that can be used to play games with real light sensitive eukaryotes. The system is made of simple components and is open-source, allowing kids to built it themselves with a bit of guidance.
The system involves simple lenses and a printed platform on which a smartphone rests. The phone utilizes the lenses as the microscope, and can be gently raised and lowered to achieve proper focus. Below the optics is a glass platform with a slide containing freely moving Euglena eukaryotes. At the corners of the platform are four LEDs that can be activated to light up via a smartphone app.
The LEDs control which way individual eukaryotes will swim, and overlaying graphics on top of what the smartphone is seeing can turn a boring pool of microbes into a fun game of soccer. Other games can be developed that rely on controlling individual eukaryotes.
Besides games,the LudusScope can be used for more serious work, as it can be used to track individual cell movements, measure the length and speed of objects, and zoom in on them to get a better view.
Check out this video that shows the LudusScope system followed by a replay of a short soccer match: