Dementia is a serious cognitive decline disease that plagues many people all over the world. There is currently no cure. Those who have a loved one suffering from this disease understand just how emotional and crippling it can be, especially the memory loss that comes with it. In order to fight this disease and help find a cure, ongoing research is required.
So, Alzheimer’s Research UK collaborated with Deutsche Telekom, University College London and University of East Anglia to find a way to escalate their research efforts using gamification.
Sea Hero Quest is based on a simple idea. What if some of the three billion hours Deutsche Telekom’s 200 million users spend gaming each week, was devoted to scientific research?
The solution of creating a mobile game is an innovative way to gather data quickly, and on a larger scale than before. Currently scientific research is not only slow but is usually taken from a smaller data pool than what is required.
In research already undertaken for dementia, there is no ‘normal’ benchmark to understand if the loss of navigation a person has is due to just growing old, or if it is as a result of a more serious cognitive decline. Losing the ability to navigate is one of the first symptoms of dementia. In order to gain data, the game asks players to follow a son’s quest to recover the memories of his seafaring father. As players manoeuvre around the different challenges and mazes, the researchers can see heat maps of how different people approach the task and how they navigate their way through each course. Additionally, data such as your sex and age is also collected.
The researchers say that every two minutes someone spends playing the game, generates the same amount of data as it would take scientists five hours to collect in lab-based research. The navigational results gained will help scientists set a benchmark, and therefore assist them with their important studies.
So how did people find out about it?
Social superstar PewDiePie, was enlisted to create a video review of the game and seed this out to his 43.8 million YouTube subscribers, and 7.4 million Twitter followers. The influencer’s vlog has already accrued 3.9 million views and counting. Watch the video here.
The game was launched on 4 May and after a week, has had more than 200,000 downloads, doubling their target of 100,000 downloads in their first year. Every two minutes spent playing the game corresponds with 5 hours’ worth of data. Since its launch, scientists have already been provided with 693 years’ worth of dementia research data.
With the innovation of weaving medical research into popular gaming technology, the possibilities are truly endless. Turning a medical insight into a format that resonates with the online behaviour of three billion people, whose combined activity generates much needed crowd sourced data, is a stroke of genius.
Is it thinking like this that changes our world for the greater good?
What can you do to help?
Instead of playing the next instalment of Angry Birds, why not try out this new game that will not only test your memory and navigational skills, but will also provide meaningful and valuable medical research to a very worthy cause.
Rebecca Bell is an Account Manager at BCM