Unlock molecular secrets with BioBlox VR

BioBlox, a VR game which tackles how biological molecules fit together, exhibits at this year’s New Scientist Live.

BioBlox is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London and Goldsmiths, University of London. It turns the science of how proteins fit together (or ‘dock’) with smaller molecules, such as medicines and vitamins, into a Tetris-style puzzle game and quiz. Players manipulate and dock molecules into proteins to score points and earn bonus powers in a race against time.

First launched as a 2D mobile game, Bioblox is now available as a 3D desktop game and Virtual Reality experience – which exhibits at New Scientist Live 2017.

Where: New Scientist Live, ExCel Centre, London E16 1XL
When: 28 September – 1 October 2017
Tickets and info


How molecules dock onto proteins is the key to understanding processes in the cell, and in particular to designing new drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. The complex 3D forms of such molecules – resembling the bumpy surface of an asteroid full of pits and craters – make understanding how they fit together extremely challenging.

The researchers designed the game to be fun but also to help players learn about protein research and it could be used in schools to teach chemistry and biology. The quiz asks players to name a biological molecule from its description – for example asking them to name the molecule that is used by our cells to produce energy later identified as glucose.

Professor William Latham, from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, and Creative Director of the project, said: “In BioBlox2D we open the world of protein docking to the mass market casual games player, where they have fun playing our puzzle game but at the same time learn about the science.”

Professor Michael Sternberg, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial and one of project leads, said: “We were inspired by a scientific problem to develop a fun-to-play game where players can experience the challenges of matching both shapes and electrical charges, which is central to how life works.”

The researchers say the block-slotting gameplay is given an original twist as players also have to match positively charged blocks with negatively charged ones – a reference to the binding mechanisms of real proteins. Successfully clearing blocks unlocks information and bonuses such as slowing time and automatically completing a level.

The team have also released a 3D version at the same time as the 2D version, and hope to make it possible to crowdsource the protein docking problem through citizen science challenges.

The intention with BioBlox3D and BioBloxVR is to simulate the protein docking problem with far greater realism in 3D and potentially solve real-world problems. At the moment, the pre-set models in the game come from an existing protein database, but players will soon have the ability to upload their own protein data and experiment in 3D and VR.

Frederic Fol Leymarie, Professor of Computing at Goldsmiths and co-lead on the project, said: “It is hoped this will provide the building blocks for people to create citizen science challenges to, for instance, crowdsource the search for new drug molecules.”

The project was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


This article was written in June 2017 by Pete Wilton and originally posted in Goldsmiths News. It was updated on 21 September 2017 to include news of Bioblox VR at New Scientist Live.


Find your way to Computing labs at Goldsmiths

Newcomers sometimes find it difficult to find their way around the Goldsmiths campus, so here’s a video guide to locating our Computing labs:

  • RHB 306, Richard Hoggart Building
  • RHB 306a, Richard Hoggart Building
  • St James Block 3 ground floor
  • Hatchlab, G11 Hatcham St James Building
  • WB 219 and Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Whitehead Building

NB: All of these labs are wheelchair accessible, but the directions below sometimes assume an ability to climb stairs. Please contact us if you need accessible directions.


RHB 306, Richard Hoggart Building
The big computing lab on the second floor of the Richard Hoggart Building (the main, old red brick building). From reception, turn left and go up the red corridor. Take Staircase B to the second floor. Then take the 4-5 steps in front of you, and head left into RHB 306.


RHB 306a, Richard Hoggart Building
You’d think that this would be right next to RHB 306, wouldn’t you? It is, but you access it from the other side of the building. From the Richard Hoggart Building reception, turn right and go up the white corridor. Take Staircase F to the second floor. Go straight ahead into RHB 306.


St James Block 3 ground floor
This is the most difficult to find! From Goldsmiths College Green, go down the back of the Whitehead Building. Follow the road down the hill until you reach TCIDA (Tungsten Centre for Intelligent Data Analytics). Turn right and walk towards St James Block 3, which looks like a big mobile classroom.


Hatchlab, G11 Hatcham St James Building
This is the cool maker space in the back of ‘the church’. From Goldsmiths College Green, go though the gate at the top of Laurie Grove. Go down the little alleyway next to the Laban Centre, and you’ll see the church in front of you. Hatchlab (aka G11) is at the back of the ground floor. Wheelchair users can take the side entrance on the left of the building. If you’re coming from New Cross Road, watch this video instead.


WB 219 and the Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Whitehead Building
The Whitehead Building is the modern yellow building on the College Green. Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre is on the ground floor. WB 219 computing labs are upstairs.


Goldsmiths hackathon looms large in BBC1 show on London’s tech pioneers

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A creative hackathon run by Goldsmiths Computing students forms the backbone of a new BBC1 documentary, which screened on Friday 23 June 2017.

The 30-minute programme ‘Invented in London’ uncovers London’s technology pioneers of the past, present and future – with a focus on Anvil Hack III, a Spotify-sponsored hackathon organised by student tech group Hacksmiths.

GoldsmithsThe 2-day Anvil Hack III took place on campus this April, focussing on the creative applications of technology. Supported by Goldsmiths Annual fund, it challenged participants to use their skills “to make something wonderful, arty, musical – anything you build will be awesome.”

Participants competed for a range of prizes including best audio hack (make something interesting using sound), best hardware hack, best visual hack (make a cool project showcasing awesome visuals), as well as best projects using Spotify, Twilio and Autodesk.

The rest of the BBC documentary featured profiles of Deliveroo, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, an AI personal assistant and an artist who’d hacked a hearing aid to sonify wi-fi coverage.


Goldsmiths’ Adventures in Cyberculture

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Computer scientists at Goldsmiths feature in a Leicester festival celebrating the pioneers of acid house, techno and early internet cultures.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s something strange was happening. Early Virtual Reality and Internet were combining with house music, neo-psychedelia and cyberpunk fiction to produce a cultural movement that would herald the new hyper-connected world. Cyberculture: The Beginning of the Modern World is a exhibition of material from this era that explores this brave new world from the perspective of those who were there.

On Saturday 17 June, all-day digital arts event Phorward includes talks from William Latham – freaky fractals artist turned Goldsmiths professor – and internet pioneer Ivan Pope, who created World Wide Web Newsletter at Goldsmiths’ Computer Centre in 1993.

The rest of the day features films, video games, VR and performances, plus a set by experimental electronic music producers & club promoters Higher Intelligence Agency.

Call for submission: Goldsmiths hosts International Congress on Love & Sex with Robots

For the second year in a row, we will insert clunky doubles entendres into reports on the upcoming International Congress on Love & Sex with Robots.

Co-organised by Dr Kate Devlin and hosted by Goldsmiths, the conference offers an opportunity for academics and industry professionals to come together and discuss their work and ideas.

When: 19-20 December 2017
Where: Goldsmiths, University of London

The conference is now open for submission of papers on teledildonics, robot emotions & personalities, humanoid robots, clone robots, intelligent electronic sex hardware and roboethics, as well as papers from psychological, sociological, philosophical, ethical, affective and gender standpoints.

On 16-17 December the conference will be preceded by Sex Tech Hack, a 24-hour hackathon organised by Hacksmiths. Last year’s hackers created sexy robot nipples, computer-generated erotica and a fisting machine powered by the stock market.


Physical Computing projects, Spring 2017

Here is a selection of recent projects from our third year Physical Computing module, taught by Phoenix Perry and Perla Maiolino. 

The projects – which were developed in the department’s new hack labs in St James Hatcham Building – include toys, games, controllers, musical devices, and lots of robots.


Flight Control System
by Jacky Wang


Roll Game
by Andrea Fiorucci


Once upon a Time: The Seasons
by Elliot Brown & Sapphira Abayomi. Once Upon a Time site


Drum Machine with Arduino Mega
by Hamood Abdul Jabbar and Gabriel Oliveira Valencia. Project site


Fortune Telling Robot
by Sam Arshed. Robot website
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Arduino Tee: a vest with electric shock pads
by Kamaldeep Singh Bachus and Umar Yunus. Tee site
shock-vest


Pendulum: midi controller for a max filter with a pendulum accelerometer
by Harrison Bamford. Pendulum website


Auduino: breath-powered musical instrument
by Saskia Burczak & Mohsin Yusuf. Auduino blog


Electromagnetic String Instrument
by Cameron Thomas

Electromagnetic String Instrument from Cameron Thomas on Vimeo.


Omnimac wheeled robot
by Cormac Joyce. Omnimac website


Mastermind
by Eliot Heath


Arduino Synth
by George Sullivan


FlyBall
by Tom Holmes


Nonsensitron
by Gil Hakemi.
Project blog


Alarm System
by Osian Jarvis


Street Fighter Joystick Controller
Justin King


Vibrating Diamonds
Qian Joo Lim. Diamonds blog


Ladybird Robot
by Michael King


Report from Goldsmiths’ Sex Tech Hackathon

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Back in December 2016, student society Hacksmiths teamed up with Goldsmiths’ Dr Kate Devlin to run the first ever Sex Tech Hackathon.  In this blog post, Creative Computing student Kevin Lewis reports what happened.

Kevin Lewis

Kevin Lewis

Hackathons are invention marathons – where attendees build creative solutions to a challenge set by organisers. One of our tutors, Dr Kate Devlin, wanted to run a hackathon around her area of research – artificial sexuality and the ethics of artificial intelligence – and we couldn’t wait to jump in and help.

Running creative events is not new to Hacksmiths (Goldsmiths’ student-run tech society). Every year we run several large hackathons, but this felt different. We had an exceptional group of attendees from a much wider range of backgrounds than ever before at something we’ve run, and with it came a range of experiences and viewpoints which made the projects at Sex Tech Hack all unique and valuable in their own ways.

Bop It

One team converted children’s toy ‘Bop It’ into a remote control for smart sex toys

For two days we had over 50 talented developers, designers and industry experts join us in St James Hatcham to build innovative new sex technology.

Only in Goldsmiths would you assemble a group of individuals so awesome that they create a combined 14 projects which are so different from one another.

From our very own Dr Sarah Wiseman building a physical computing project to improve communication between partners around kinks, to a group of students with a 3D-printed fist whose vibration intensity changes based on historical data from multinational finance company Goldman Sachs.

No, really, we saw it all – generative erotica, beat-controlled vibrators and a cryptocurrency based on ‘pleasing’ the network. We had quite a few prizes, but the overall best was awarded by our panel of judges to Lovepad – a soft robot specifically designed for non-binary users. The hackers mixed their own silicon in the church over the weekend and it was the more weird and wonderful thing we could have had.

We’ll be running this event again towards the end of 2017 – we want to make it even bigger and better than last time (not that size matters in the slightest). If you want to register for updates, head over to sexhack.tech.