Verigames: verify software by playing games

VerigamesPlay games to help defend — or at least debug — your nation.

Formal Verification is the process of rigorously analyzing software to detect flaws that make programs vulnerable to exploitation. Performing this analysis requires highly skilled engineers with extensive training and experience. This makes the verification process costly and relatively slow.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) program is interested in improving and advancing the current processes of formal verification by significantly increasing the number of people working on formal verification projects at any given time through crowd-sourcing. CSFV augments the intensive work done by formal verification experts by greatly decreasing the skill required to do formal verification.

Much of the work required in the process of formal verification can be automated. Computers can be programmed to automatically scour software applications and verify the absence of certain bugs that make the applications vulnerable to misuse. However, certain formal verification work needs to be done by human experts specifically trained to discover and address issues that can be missed by computers. However, there aren’t enough of these experts to cover the huge amount of software generated in today’s modern computing world.

CSFV seeks to add more human expertise to the process of formal verification through fun and engaging video games. The games are created to assist in the formal verification process as players solve puzzles and increase their score. Video games that represent the underlying mathematical concepts allow more people to perform verification analysis of software efficiently. We empower non-experts to effectively do the work of formal verification experts—simply by playing and completing game objectives.

[Verigames: About Us]

Verigames YouTube channel

DARPA press release (December 4, 2013)

Via NetworkWorld, via Slashdot.

Example: Xylem

Xylem is a Verigame game which happens to have a nice YouTube video:

Software developers across the world have a major problem producing bug-free reliable code.

Our task is to help the specialists achieve their goal of ensuring that software that is produced is bug-free.

The way we do it is to take that code and turn it into some puzzles and put them in a game that we called Xylem, and crowdsource the games and the results of the game play help us to produce code that is bug-free.

What next?

This is all very interesting, but doesn’t go deep enough.

I want to know more about the principles of how we “take that code and turn it into some puzzles”.

Turn your screen into a playable Super Mario level

Desktop application Screentendo allows you to capture an image of your screen, and export the image as a playable Super Mario level.

Created by Aaron Randall.

It’s a Cocoa app, so Mac only unless you have a virtual machine to emulate OS X on your Windows or linux box.

The source code is available at GitHub.

Via BoingBoing.

This is cool. I like it. More like this, please.

I never got into Mario Brothers, haven’t touched it in many years. But I love the idea of making a level from a screenshot.

Zuckerberg on games and programming

In a recent online Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about playing games as a kid, and growing up to be a computer programmer.

Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers.

“I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do,” he told the audience.

“I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn’t played games as a kid.”

“Most of the engineers I know, who are the best engineers, are self-taught,” Zuckerberg added at the Q&A. “It’s not because they took some classes.”

[Source: Are video games the gateway to programming?]

Via Slashdot.

Do Fruit Flies Have Emotions?

“For us, that’s a big step beyond just casually intuiting that a fly fleeing a visual threat must be ‘afraid,’ based on our anthropomorphic assumptions.It suggests that the flies’ response to the threat is richer and more complicated than a robotic-like avoidance reflex.Drosophila Thinking Question

This may be useful to game designers. Can we make a bot that actually feels fear … and if not, how close can we get?

Using fruit flies to study the basic components of emotion, a new Caltech study reports that a fly’s response to a shadowy overhead stimulus might be analogous to a negative emotional state such as fear — a finding that could one day help us understand the neural circuitry involved in human emotion.



Behavioral Responses to a Repetitive Visual Threat Stimulus Express a Persistent State of Defensive Arousal in Drosophila @ Cell Press

Media Mentions:

Fruit Flies Are Shown to Enter a Fearlike State @ NY Times

Animal emotions: Do fruit flies feel fear? @ CS Monitor


Drosophila @ Wikipedia

See Also:


Edutainment failed me

Treasure MathStorm“… it felt like being told you had to eat your vegetables before you could have a single bite of weird, unappealing fruitcake.”

— Aroon Karuna

Many people … look back fondly on legitimately-entertaining educational games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and The Oregon Trail. But the Learning Company games my parents bought me were marketed to and designed for parents and educators, not children. Rather than marrying learning to play, they crudely grafted educational material to rudimentary “game”-like behavior.

For children forced to play such games, it felt like being told you had to eat your vegetables before you could have a single bite of weird, unappealing fruitcake. You’d typically have to suffer through some convoluted fractions or a reading comprehension portion before you could be “rewarded” with a small slice of entertainment. The message ended up being that education was supposed to be a slog, not something you’d want to pursue for its own sake.

[Source: BoingBoing]