Pac-Mecium could be described as Pac-Man, the popular arcade game, with a live Pac-Man. Instead of yellow Pac-Man scuttling around a grid trying to escape the ghosts and eat cherries, paramecia slither along a human-made maze and can be moved with a human fingering a joystick. Bioengineering professor Ingmar Riedel-Krus and his team at Stanford University first fiddled with what they coined “Pac-Mecium” in 2017, with the goal of raising awareness about the wonders of the paramecia and the leaps that science is taking in being able to manipulate the life and movement of organisms, human included. The way that humans can guide the paramecia is by moving a joystick that adjusts the electrical field of the surrounding maze, and since paramecia move as a response to change in electric fields, one is able to manipulate the movement without touching them directly. Live-streaming motion cameras capture the movement of the paramecia and display them on a computer monitor, mimicking the appearance of the classic Pac-Man screen. How well the players guide the paramecium around projected virtual graphic objects in the game determines how well a player does. So far, there aren’t any multi-coloured ghosts to dodge, but that may very well be an addition in the future. For now, Pac-Mecium is certainly effective at showing how we are already able to control the lives and movement of organisms but raises ethical questions about the moral implications of manipulating the life and movement of living organisms at any scale. 

Riedel-Kruse, Ingmar H., Alice M. Chung, Burak Dura, Andrea L. Hamilton, and Byung C. Lee. “Design, engineering and utility of biotic games.”


Aesthetic/Leisure, Lifestyle, Monitoring, Psychology, Visual Technologies