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Faculty Candidate Seminar

Solving Problems with Video Games

Seth CooperCreative DirectorCenter for Game Science, University of Washington

Rather than solving difficult problems with a purely computational approach, combining humans and computers can provide a means for solving problems neither could solve alone. Video games provide a compelling framework for this approach: they are a natural space for problem solving and can foster the engagement necessary for people to make a contribution. I will describe the
challenges of mapping real-world problems onto games and ways to address these challenges. As a primary example I will discuss
Foldit, an online game where players help scientists understand protein shapes and functions. Foldit has had over 300,000 players over the last four years and contributed to several scientific discoveries through gameplay. I will also discuss future applications and problem domains for video games.
Seth Cooper is the Creative Director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington and lead developer of Foldit. He earned his BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley and his PhD in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. His thesis won the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award and UW CSE's William Chan Memorial Dissertation Award. During his graduate studies, he was the recipient of an NVIDIA Graduate Fellowship and authored several publications in Nature journals. His games have won numerous awards, including the NSF International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge and the SIGGRAPH Disney Learning Challenge. He has also spent time working in industry at Square Enix, Electronic Arts, and Pixar Animation Studios.

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