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Biotechnology and health

Microsoft is learning how to biologically search for images stored in DNA

January 24, 2018

The software company is collecting 10,000 selfies from the public that it will encode in DNA so it can work out how to search for them inside the molecules.

Backstory: DNA is a space- and energy-efficient way to store data like pictures and video. Microsoft says it hopes to add DNA storage to its cloud systems.

Why selfies? That’s a gimmick. (Still, go ahead: send a snapshot to MemoriesInDNA.com and it may be turned into DNA.) But with the 10,000 images, it will encode into DNA a kind of picture database that it will use to develop new search techniques.

DNA image search: Microsoft aims to search for and classify images while they’re in DNA form. That, it says, is possible because certain DNA letters stick to others: a search query for “red car” coded into DNA should stick to bits of DNA that contains such an image. But it still needs to do that bit.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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