BioGlyphics is a platform for creating visual lab protocols. It is designed so people can create a lab protocol using a simple drag and drop web app. BioGlyphics is still in an early development phase. But, the final version of the app will automatically generate code for lab automation software for each visual lab protocol. We also envision building a online community that will allow biomakers, teachers, and community labs to share and comment on each protocol - a sort of github/thingiverse for lab protocols.
We saw 4 main problems with text protocols.
1. Poor Consistency Each person writing a protocol phrases things a bit differently and focuses on different content. For a beginner in the lab this can be confusing. “Spin down” vs. “Centrifuge”
2. Poor Visualization It can be hard for a beginner in a lab to connect the text of a protocol with clear actions they need to perform.
3. Low Efficiency Writing text protocols is not very time efficient. You need to spend time deciding word choice and what level of detail to cover.
4. Machine Illegible Because the text of protocols is not consistent in language or formatting, computer programs that run lab automation software are not able to use it.
We started wishing that we had something new. Something more visual and easy to quickly grasp. What if instead of inconsistent confusing text we had something for lab protocols that more resembled IKEA instructions?
Our next step was to get the community involved. On 7/7/14 we hosted a public event - The BioGlyphics Iconathon. We brought together graphic designers and artists from all over the NYC metro area and invited them to design BioGlyphics at a event hosted in a Brooklyn community work space.
We then created an early prototype of what a BioGlyphics protocol would look like. We created the complete IGEM transformation protocol in BioGlyphics.
We really liked the result for the following reasons:
1. 100% consistent. Each protocol follows the same logical format.
2. Easy to understand and visualize. Materials and Procedures are visually defined just like IKEA instructions.
3. Fast & easy to create. Simple drag and drop web/android/iOS app interface.
4. Will be 100% machine readable for lab automation software. Making a protocol in this format will automatically build machine code behind the scenes.
Where are we now? BioGlyphics in currently in the first stage of a 3 step process of development.
Stage 1. Proof of concept and basic early prototype. Initial development of Bioglyphic icons and exploration into lab automation programming. (We are here.)
Stage 2. Raise funding and find dedicated volunteers for the full development of the web application and online community. 2015-2016.
Stage 3. Spread BioGlyphics to other community labs, teachers, and bio makers across the country. Late 2016.