Gamify Competition

From setiquest wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

The Gamify SETI & Prosper Challenge

by Jon Richards, The SETI Institute May 5th, 2011

Tweet this

NOTE: The competition ended July 4th, 2011 - See the results at Gamify_Competition_Results.
Discuss on our Forum at Forum - Gamify Experimentation


Are you a gamification expert[1] or interested in becoming one? Want to help solve a problem of epic proportions that could have a major impact on the world?

The SETI Institute and Gamify[2] together have created an EPIC Contest to explore possible ways to gamify SETI. We’re asking the most brilliant Earthlings to come up with ideas on how to apply gamification[3] to increase participation in the SETI program.

The primary goal of this social/scientific challenge is to help SETI empower global citizens to participate in the search for cosmic company and to help SETI become financially sustainable so it can live long and prosper. This article explains our problem and what we are looking to accomplish. We invite everyone to answer the question, “How would you gamify SETI?”.

To be more specific:

The scientific principles involved in this field of science can be very complicated. A conscious attempt has been made to explain the challenge we face with a minimum of scientific explanation or jargon. We wish to be able to clearly explain our unique problems and desired outcomes to the scientific and non-scientific audience.

To click straight to the contest, click For more information, read on.


SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. (See for information about The SETI institute.)

This gamification effort is being led from within the setiQuest project with the help of Gamify, a start-up that is building the first intergalactic Gamification Platform[4] with an interactive knowledge-base,network of experts and tools to gamify any products or services to engage users and solve problems -- from tiny to epic proportions. See and for more details.


We have built and operate the Allen Telescope Array (the ATA which is located in a remote location in Northern California (Hat Creek area). See for an explanation of this unique instrument, collectively referred to as the telescope. We use the ATA to observe signals from the far reaches of outer-space. We are hoping to be able to detect intelligent signals from an extraterrestrial source. Another civilization, perhaps.

The Problem

The ATA generates a lot of signal data that needs to be analyzed for potential signals. We have developed software that analyzes the signal data in real time as it is delivered from the telescope. As great and efficient as our software and algorithms are, we see several issues with our approach:

The data volume is immense. We need help from a large community of people to help us.

It would be a real shame if there are valid signals we are missing because of these issues!

The Challenge

How can we gamify SETI and allow the general public to help us search through our signal data, detecting new kinds of signals, or find signals our system is missing? We would train our software to detect these new or missed signals identified through this gamification effort. It is even possible a real ET signal may be detected directly through this as a result of your ideas!

A secondary challenge is to come up with a way to monetize the gamification to directly support the ATA and the signal analysis efforts.

The Contest

We have created a question page on Each person who wishes to participate should try their best to answer the question "How would you gamify SETI?”[5]. Each person is allowed to answer up to three times. All users can vote on which answers they like best which may or may not influence SETI’s decision when selecting the winner. The contest starts May 5th, 2011 and ends either when SETI selects a clear winner or July 5th, 2011, whichever comes first.

We want to recognize all good answers to show our appreciation for your participation and efforts so we will be rewarding all answers that we think are great as honorable mentions.

You can answer the question up to three times so don’t hesitate to get started and begin perfecting your answer!


The Rewards

For the Winner:

For the Honorable Mentions:

The ultimate reward, of course, is that in aggregate, our ideas could help SETI find Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence in our lifetime!

The Rules

You must have applied to become a Gamify Expert at to be eligible to win! You can read the full contest rules here: Additional details[6].

Background Information: How Our Data Works

At this point a discussion of the signal data may be helpful.

There is too much data to make all of it available to the general public. Too much to upload and download all of it to the internet for later analysis. This is why our signal analysis software SonATA operates on the data in real time as it arrives from the telescope.

We currently have an effort in place that gathers some of the data and stores the data on the internet, as much as we can currently handle. See setiQuest Data Links for a list of what we have made available available for download. We also publish details of the data format so anyone can analyze the data if they have the scientific and programming knowledge.

We have a standard method of visually representing the signal data for humans to view. We call this representation a waterfall, in the form of waterfall plots. Below is a sample waterfall plot created from raw signal (with the axes identified for this explanation):


The waterfall plot above is the simplest we have. The data looks like static because during this time period and at this frequency range there were no signals except for random static. Below is an example of a waterfall that does contain a signal. This is the very weak signal detected from the Voyager spacecraft which is now outside our solar system speeding away from earth. See the the diagonal line? That is the signal, tilted due to the Doppler effect[7].


But there are signals visible in a waterfall plot that our software fails to recognize. For instance, here is a squiggle shaped signal. What is it? We currently have efforts underway to write an efficient algorithm to detect this kind of signal.


And, what is this?


We have hundreds of thousands of these waterfall plots available online. Soon to be millions or more. We can make this data available to a gaming system. Note that we can also provide meta data associated with each waterfall plot, as well as information about previously identified signals and potential RFI.

Efforts So Far

We have developed an application we call setiQuest Explorer. It is really not a game, or an attempt at gamification. It does, however, allow a participant to efficiently look through our collected data and see if they can spot anything. Here is a screen shot:


You can try the setiQuest Explorer program if you have a computer that can run Flash (not iPhone or iPad).

Please go to


We have several key things that we believe will make gamification of our problem successful:

Now we ask the gamification expert community[8] and all of the world:

How would you gamify SETI?

Take Action!

  1. We’ve created a designated Question for this Contest at Go there and answer the question to participate!
  2. Help spread the word, this is for an important cause! Help by telling friends on facebook and twitter to join in the cause!
  3. Create a blog post, presentation, YouTube video or other form of media if you need help to express your idea! Look at the question page for details on how to make sure other media is considered for the contest.

Our goal is to empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company. Please join us in our quest. Together we hope to find a creative solution to gamify SETI, making it sustainable and to increase the chances of us all being alive to see first contact.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. Use your power to help SETI!



External resource links to help you

Tweet this

Personal tools