On a cold day in December, 2012, a team of researchers from Seung Lab at MIT sat at their computers readying to launch what would become one of the world’s largest citizen science games. Eyewire would eventually set the stage for both a new wave of both AI-assisted citizen science and large-scale connectomics. But on day one, we were just hoping someone, anyone, would show up. Eyewire officially launched to the world on December 10th, 2012, AKA J-Day, and with such a wave of traffic that our servers crashed for 7 hours.
After we revived the melted servers, the launch was ultimately successful and we were on our way toward an ambitious goal at the time: map an entire J cell in one week. That first J-type retinal ganglion cell was mapped in the final hours of the 7th day after launch. They say the first step is the hardest. Our journey was only beginning. Over the next year, citizen scientists mapped almost 100 cells in Eyewire. Now, we’ve mapped thousands. Eyewire saw many changes between 2012 and 2022, including the addition of user profiles, badges, team competitions, notifications, and even new tiers of gameplay that unlocked datasets in different dimensions (hello, Mystic zebrafish!). Eyewire art has appeared in Times Square NYC, at the TED Conference, the United Nations, and exhibits around the world. The effort and work of the citizen scientists has been featured in major media ranging from Wired to The New York Times to NBC News.
One thing has remained steadfast: the Eyewire community. We are honored and humbled by the amazing Eyewirers, many of whom have been playing for years and some of whom are helping to beta test our newest brain mapping project, FlyWire (PS if you want to help map neurons in FlyWire, we’re opening invites so drop a note to email@example.com).
On this anniversary of Eyewire, we celebrate YOU, the Eyewirers. None of this would be possible without you. As we raise a glass to toast citizen science and connectomics, we thank you for your commitment to advancing science. Your efforts have enabled discoveries about how eyes see, ultimately shining light on how the brain works. Your efforts have set the stage for a new class of citizen science games and proven that crowdsourcing works in neuroscience and beyond. We don’t know what the next 10 years will hold, but one thing is for certain: they will be at least as exciting as the last decade.