Our research and exploratory development are done on the Ideate Games platform. You can see finished games and links to apps in the app store as well as some of our preliminary ideas there, for apps, games and tools. The items listed below are simple modules that have not found their way into games yet, but in which we see interesting potential.

Serendipity (Meanderings)

Since I first learned about the discovery of penicillin, I have been fascinated by the idea and the reality of serendipity, however it is narrowly or broadly defined. The basic idea came from my friend and former colleague Jonathan Clark, he and I used to talk about its possible role in stimulating innovation, and the necessity of a receptive mind to take advantage of it.

This simple app is the result of my starting to make a ‘serendipity machine’ as Jonathan described it to me. It is too simple at this point to achieve what Jonathan described, only takes advantage of common words to find a random path between two topics, but I find it a lot of fun, and it does sometimes result in new convergence of ideas.

The app is named ‘Meanderings’. Here is a simple video of the app on a smart phone:
This app is available as an open beta.

There is also an excellent if dense and scholarly history of the concept of serendipity from the invention of the word by Horace Walpole through its use in science and culture and appearance in dictionaries: The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity by Robert K. Merton and Elinor Barber (2004). You can tell the kind of book by the subtitle: “A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science.” I thoroughly enjoyed it.

One of the peculiarities of this app (and the game Threads, below) is that none of the content was written for the game or the app. All of the content was written either as my reading notes or for travel apps that I made for friends.


The Meanderings app is also now the basis of a new game I am working on, Threads, which is for players to build paths of potential influence through history and science. Threads is intended to be something of a speculative (and serendipitous) version of the fascinating books Circles, Connections (TV show and some book derivations), and The Pinball Effect by James Burke.

If I can make a fun game from Meanderings (as I hope to with Threads), I will achieve one of my biggest goals of the past decade, at least in principle. I keep trying to make a game structure that is fun and has completely replaceable content, ideally suited for learning a bit more about a new topic. All the content for the Serendipity applet and the game Threads, except the images, is in simple spreadsheets. Threads will be my latest attempt, and Serendipity is the basis for that game.

Threads is a card game played like Dominoes that uses an app containing a QRcode reader to validate and score moves. The difficulty in making the game is the 400+ images (as are in Serendipity). I cannot purchase rights to them (most are free but for non-commercial), cannot pay to have an artist re-create them, and cannot find and track down all the licenses, especially to put in a published card game. Still trying to figure that out. Pixabay (pexels.com) is good for standard images, but not for historical images.


This simple app explores evolutionary relationships between animals through genetic comparison of extant species, finding the time (millions of years ago) of the most recent common ancestor for any two species. The app contains a copy of a genome-based clade database, and does a live lookup of species and/or genus name for animals not in the menu. I built this for helping grandchildren understand and explore evolution, but use it myself to answer simple questions about divergence of animal ancestors.