UW Today

April 27, 2012

‘Attack! of the S. mutans’ 3-D video game featured at national science expo

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

“Attack! of the S. Mutans” a 3-D interactive video game developed by Seattle’s Firsthand Technology with the help of the School of Dentistry will be featured at the USA Science & Engineering Expo on April 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

Dentistry faculty and researchers worked with Firsthand Technology to create the game, which made its public debut in an exhibit at Seattles Pacific Science Center in 2010.

The 15-minute game, aimed at children ages 8 and up, takes players into a virtual environment inside the human mouth. Players can watch colorful simulations of Streptococcus mutans as the bacteria devour sugars and carbohydrates and produce the lactic acid that attacks teeth and causes decay. Using a Wii-type controller, players fire away at the acid and bacteria. They also learn a little science in the process with the help of Dentisha, a virtual guide.

“The vehicle of a high-quality 3-D game enables us to engage kids with science and an important health message through the medium of play,” said Howard Rose, Firsthand Technology president and creative director, when the game was introduced.

“Our goal is to have kids visualize wiping out our oozing plaque biofilms the next time they brush their teeth.” Dr. Peter Milgrom of Dentistrys Department of Oral Health Sciences helped Firsthand Technology flesh out the games scientific foundations.

Dr. Jacqueline Pickrell of Oral Health Sciences also worked with Firsthand Technology to develop the Pacific Science Center exhibit. In addition, she used the exhibit to conduct research on how effectively game-playing changes children’s behavior.

The research and the exhibit were supported by a grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Firsthand Technology is also the creator of SnowWorld, a virtual arctic environment developed for the UWs Harborview Burn Center. In that game, coasting through icy canyons and tossing snowballs at penguins distracts patients from their pain.