Interactive programming paradigm for real-time experimentation with remote living matter

Peter Washington, Karina G. Samuel-Gama, Shirish Goyal, Ashwin Ramaswami, Ingmar H. Riedel-Kruse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Recent advancements in life-science instrumentation and automation enable entirely new modes of human interaction with microbiological processes and corresponding applications for science and education through biology cloud laboratories. A critical barrier for remote and on-site life-science experimentation (for both experts and nonexperts alike) is the absence of suitable abstractions and interfaces for programming living matter. To this end we conceptualize a programming paradigm that provides stimulus and sensor control functions for real-time manipulation of physical biological matter. Additionally, a simulation mode facilitates higher user throughput, program debugging, and biophysical modeling. To evaluate this paradigm, we implemented a JavaScript-based web toolkit, “Bioty,” that supports real-time interaction with swarms of phototactic Euglena cells hosted on a cloud laboratory. Studies with remote and on-site users demonstrate that individuals with little to no biology knowledge and intermediate programming knowledge were able to successfully create and use scientific applications and games. This work informs the design of programming environments for controlling living matter in general, for living material microfabrication and swarm robotics applications, and for lowering the access barriers to the life sciences for professional and citizen scientists, learners, and the lay public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5411-5419
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Augmented reality
  • Cloud laboratory
  • Human–computer interaction
  • Interactive biotechnology
  • Swarm programming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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