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A Long Way from Ms. Pacman

Researchers at Wellesley College are looking to make genome browsing a bit more interactive. The group has developed a tabletop-based genome browser with a touch interface that allows multiple users to simultaneously explore genomic data.

The group describes the system, called G-nome Surfer, in a recent paper in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. A video demo is available here.

It's cool, but is it useful? Mary at the OpenHelix Blog agrees with the developers' claim that researchers need better ways to interact with bioinformatics tools. However, "I guess I'm just not clear on how making them horizontal really lowers the barriers," she says.

"One of the things they claim to want to solve is 'Alleviating Data Explosion' and the problems of so much information that we are all facing. But I’m not convinced this gets us closer to that."

Nevertheless, she's "glad someone has attempted to look at usability and effectiveness of interfaces – that has been really lacking in this field for a long time, and it's not easy to do."

And even if G-nome Surfer doesn't prove more useful that traditional genome browsers, Mary has an alternative application: "I think it's time to open a bar in Kendall Square with these — a few beers with the genome geeks and a few of these tables would be fun for after work gatherings."

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