Project Discovery: How a Game is Assisting Real World Research!

Welcome to Eve. Set 21000 years into the future, mankind has come to inhabit a remote region of our universe, New Eden. After the collapse of the Eve Gate, we were cut off. Most technology was lost, many colonies perished.

Those few that survived, slowly built themselves back up to explore space once again. Through using our cunning intellect and ancient forgotten technologies, we blasted off back out into the stars, as our wanderlust never sated. 4 human based empires had grown through that time, 4 very different renderings of our genome across the ages. Being human, we still have all our pathologies and emotional drives that evolved over millennia for our survival.

Of course we fight.

Through other tech, we few pilots have become effectively immortal through the use of capsuleer technology, allowing our consciousness to be repeatedly transferred to a new clone, should our mortal shell become far too damaged.

This technology also allows us unparalleled control of our ships. Man and Machine, perfectly interfaced, our ships become another appendage we manipulate to whatever ends we choose.

Although there is plenty to do in New Eden, space is vast, sometimes the boredom is as well.

Fortunately within the game, there are many mini-games. As a result of the combined forces of the CCP game development team and the University of Geneva, they created Project Discovery, a mini-game within Eve Online that players can participate in for in game items, skins and ships.

The first project was a protein mapping project that was projected to run about 3-4 months, before they'd see consensus. In a mere 3 weeks, they had reached consensus on the entire data set. Amazed they ran it not twice but 3 times to have a consensus on the consensus and make sure of the results.

The benefits of having a living network of processing volunteers was not lost on the group! Seeing such resounding success here, they took on the daunting task of analyzing luminance data to possibly identify transits of exoplanets.

Players are fed actual deep space observational data from various telescopes and are trained to watch for the dips in starlight luminance. These dips can indicate a planet passing in front of the star, blocking its light from us. By having 10000's of eyeballs distilling the data, allows researchers to know where to train the telescopes to look for exo-planets.

One year into exo-planet project they were at 80 million classifications, in the protein project they only had 32 million. While the protein project was a resounding success, it had less than half the engagement of looking for planets! It seems searching the stars appeals much better to people playing a space simulation than biology.

While player efforts in EVE Online have yet to identify a scientifically recognized exoplanet, it’s more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘if’ we will. The data-sets being provided to CCP and the players are constantly improving, and with new satellite telescope deployments due to deliver vastly richer imagery of the far universe, the chances of the community helping to parse the noisy data to find actual candidates for recognition only increase.

As a current player, even 2.5 years into this project, I will find a graph that no other eyes have witnessed and I wonder.