TechCrunch has written about the educational gaming virtual lab, Labster this week with the launch of Labster 2.0. The next-generation lab simulator is being offered free, available now in summer before school starts.
The Copenhagen startup founded back in 2011 by Mads Tvillinggaard Bonde and Michael Bodekaer is coming out of stealth mode to give students in biotech and molecular biology access to what would be, expensive lab equipment and conduct potentially hazardous experiments, in the real world.
‘[It’s] basically a science video game that teaches you how to do anything like Sequencing DNA and become a Bio-Engineer or even a CSI agent…. hands on. You for instance get to solve a CSI murder case as a real forensics analyst.’ says Labster co-founder and CTO Michael Bodekaer.
Labster says the advantages of using simulated lab experiments vs the real deal, for example, it allows more of the molecular processes to be made visible via interactive molecular 3D animations, quiz questions have been built into software, and interactive feedback is given enhance the education experience.
‘Where students and bio-curious folk could never get access to the hundred-thousand dollar NGS machines, Electron-Microscopes or even HPLCs, they now have 24/7 access to a virtual 3D laboratory full of all these awesome machines… and you get a knowledgeable virtual assistant to show you how to use all their the cool new toys.’ continues Bodekaer.
Labster creates a new learning environment through scenarios, using an ‘inquiry-based’ approach and showing what’s happening in experiments down to the nano-level. It lets you make mistakes (safely) and learn from them. Their research suggests this method of inquiry more effective that traditional methods, which is like ‘following a cookbook recipe’. Where other tools are typically based on older lab equipment and built in Flash, Labster is targeting the iPad market, and using the Unity3D gaming engine, which works cross platform.
Labster is selling licenses for its software to universities, schools, and corporates for training, with customers include Stanford, Hong Kong and Copenhagen Universities. The startup’s current funding is $1 million in grants and non-equity support, and is in early dialogues with several investors for a potential Series-A funding.