Welcome to the world's first synthetic biology learning lab.
The man-made creation and alteration of lifeforms is a complex topic. We broke it down for visitors to the Tech Museum, demystifying one of the least-understood and most controversial topics in modern science.
Exhibit Design, Media Design, Media & Software Development
At the Living Color Lab, visitors can change the color of real bacteria. Each station has a vial of loose DNA, which can change the color of bacterial colonies over time. By introducing different quantities of color-encoding genes to the bacterial colonies and incubating them, colors begin to emerge. Visitors can insert their Petri dish into a viewer that uses computer vision to analyze the colonies and tell you what color you’ve made. A projection-based augmented reality experience guides visitors through the process, explaining what’s happening at a microscopic level. 1,493 glowing petri dishes visualize results from the experiment in real time.
Resurrecting a 64-Year-Old Algorithm
At the Pattern Design exhibit, visitors take control of the rules behind nature’s emergent systems to design new coat patterns on life-size animal sculptures. By tweaking cells using a custom physical interface, visitors can design new patterns and types of camouflage. These are projected onto three animal models we call “the hambears” (short for hamster-bear).
Connecting physical DNA models to create digital Lifeforms
At the Creature Creation Station, visitors create and test new virtual lifeforms by snapping flexible building blocks that represent DNA segments. Sensors in each block sync with the kiosks below to provide real-time feedback on the genetic design in progress. Without explicitly knowing it, visitors are creating a series of biological commands, with the DNA models serving as a proxy for genes. Visitors can manipulate the quantity, function, and timing of how each gene is expressed in their organism, then launch their creations into a 30-foot-wide “bio pool,” where digital organisms move and interact with other visitors’ lifeforms according to the rules encoded in their DNA.