According to the researchers, the PiggyDemic game/research tool will see Facebook users deliberately “infect” friends with a simulated virus, mimicking the way viruses spread among social groups and communities.
The tool is designed to improve upon current epidemic predictive models, which rely on mathematical algorithms to determine which virus will spread and how, but which are often let down because they assume that a virus has equal distribution across populations.
"HIV is concentrated in Africa; certain types of flu are widespread in North America and Asia," said Gal Almogy, a lead researcher on the project. "Adding the element of human interaction, and looking at the social networks we belong to, is critical for investigating viral interaction."
Once added to a user's Facebook account, the viral game follows the user's newsfeed to determine the people they interact with and whether they are "susceptible", "immune" or "infected" with various simulated viruses.
The virus can then be passed to other online contacts, the researchers said, with the results fed into network visualisation software to highlight the impact of social interaction on dissemination.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk