In a fusion of bioengineering and retro gaming, an MIT researcher has embarked on a fascinating yet seemingly quixotic endeavor: to display the iconic video game Doom using a grid of bioluminescent E. coli bacteria.
This innovative approach, spearheaded by Lauren Ramlan, presents a novel method of game display that pushes the boundaries of conventional technology and gaming experiences. While the concept might sound straight out of a science fiction novel, it represents a real and intriguing exploration into the possibilities of biological computing and unconventional displays.
Ramlan’s research, initially highlighted by Engadget, delves into the theoretical application of genetically modified E. coli cells, arranged in a grid to form a basic 1-bit display with a resolution of 32×48. By activating and deactivating a specific gene within these cells, Ramlan demonstrates how it’s possible to control the fluorescence emission of the bacteria, thereby producing the equivalent of pixelated frames of Doom.
A New Frontier in Gaming: Doom Meets Bioluminescent Bacteria
However, the speed at which these biological pixels operate is drastically slower than conventional digital displays, achieving a frame rate of nearly three frames per day, or a rather “buttery smooth” .00003 frames per second. This glacial pace means that completing Doom in this manner would span approximately 600 years.
Ramlan’s work is a testament to the growing trend of running Doom in unusual and innovative ways, a challenge embraced by tech enthusiasts worldwide. From displaying Doom on the tiny screen of a John Deere tractor control module to running it through Microsoft Notepad, these projects reflect a playful yet profound exploration of the limits of technology and gaming.
However, the E. coli-powered display diverges significantly by leveraging living organisms to produce a visual output, marking a unique intersection between biological science and digital entertainment.
Beyond the Screen: The Intersection of Bioengineering and Video Games
This project is not merely a whimsical venture but a reflective commentary on the nature of technological progress and the endless human drive to reimagine the uses of everyday tools and systems. While the practicality of playing Doom on a bacteria-powered display is questionable, the underlying concept illuminates the potential for bioengineering to transform our interaction with technology and entertainment. It invites us to reconsider what constitutes a “display” and how biological systems can intersect with digital worlds in the future.
Despite the impractical timeframe and unconventional nature of this endeavor, Ramlan’s work underscores a broader message about innovation, curiosity, and the joy of engineering challenges.
While she humorously suggests that we might be generations away from realizing the pinnacle of human engineering, her project serves as a beacon of creativity and ingenuity, encouraging others to explore the uncharted territories of technology and biology.