Quantum Optics: The Game

Over on Facebook, my colleague Chris Chabris was talking up a smartphone game from a company he's associated with. Which of course got me thinking "Wait, why don't I have a smartphone game company?" (The Renaissance Weekend is also partly to blame, as I was one of about six people there who didn't have a start-up company of some sort...) Which, in turn, led to the realization that there really ought to be a quantum optics video game. Or maybe a series of games, because you could construct a whole bunch of puzzlers around quantum phenomena:

-- The most basic would be to do something like the mirrors-and-beamsplitters game Lazors, only bring in the wave nature. Have some targets that you need to illuminate, and others that can't see any light, and you have to arrange the position and relative phase of multiple light sources so that interference effects light the right ones and leave the others in the dark.

-- You could make a puzzle/strategy game about the adventures of the Elitzur-Vaidman Bomb Squad. You have some number of packages that may or may not contain light-sensitive bombs, and you need to identify the live bombs without setting them off. Which you do by placing them inside a Mach-Zehnder interferometer, or a pair of weakly coupled cavities, and exploiting the Quantum Zeno Effect. Of course, you can make the probability of success arbitrarily close to one by adjusting the mirror reflectivity appropriately and waiting a bit longer, but for game purposes, you could put a time limit on it, so you have to strategically decide which packages have the highest probability of being bombs, and allocate your measurement time appropriately.

-- Bell's theorem would let you make an "Are these entangled or not?" game: you get to make a series of measurements of the states of two particles, and have to choose the measurement bases appropriately to determine whether they're correlated in a non-local manner. Again, you can add a degree of difficulty by simulating imperfect detectors and restricting the total number of measurements.

-- Quantum cryptography would also seem to allow some game possibilities-- you can play either Alice or Bob as they try to generate secure keys, and determine whether Eve is listening in based on their bit error rates. Or you can play Eve, and run various attacks on Bob and Alice.

Really, the possibilities here are endless. If I didn't have this day job that requires me to, you know, teach classes and stuff, I'd be all over this. Also, I'd need some programming skill. That's kind of a problem, too...

Anyway, game designer types: Call me. If we play our cards right, we could turn these ideas into literally tens of dollars on the app stores...

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