A new computer game prototype combines work and play to help solve a fundamental problem underlying many computer hardware design tasks.
The online logic puzzle is called FunSAT, and it could help integrated circuit designers select and arrange transistors and their connections on silicon microchips, among other applications.
Designing chip architecture for the best performance and smallest size is an exceedingly difficult task that’s outsourced to computers these days. But computers simply flip through possible arrangements in their search. They lack the human capacities for intuition and visual pattern recognition that could yield a better or even optimal design. That’s where FunSAT comes in.
Developed by University of Michigan computer science researchers Valeria Bertacco and Andrew DeOrio, FunSAT is designed to harness humans’ abilities to strategize, visualize and understand complex systems.
“Computer games can be more than a fun diversion,” said Bertacco, an associate professor in computer science and engineering. “Humans are good at playing games and they enjoy dedicating time to it. We hope that we can use their strengths to improve chip designs, databases and even robotics.”
…A single-player prototype exists at http://funsat.eecs.umich.edu, implemented in Java by U-M undergraduate Erica Christensen. Bertacco and DeOrio are working on growing it to a multi-player game, which would allow more complicated problems to be solved.