According to research from University of Cambridge, Newcastle University, Nottingham University and the University of East Anglia, just over 210,000 new cases of dementia are reported in the UK each year.
Sea Hero Quest, is a mobile game born out of a collaboration between Alzheimer's Research UK, University of East Anglia, University College London, Glitchers, and with the support of Deutsche Telekom. It was created to help scientists better understand dementia and develop a cure for it. The game features a range of challenges and tasks that players ust complete. The game is built around three key functions: navigating mazes, shooting flares to test players' orientation and chasing creatures to take photos of them. Each function has been designed to gather specific data about a player's cognitive abilities. As an example, loss of navigational skills is common among sufferers of dementia. The game features navigational activities to help create a benchmark for determining whether getting lost is a sign of dementia in some people or a natural part of the ageing process.
Sea Hero Quest's idea is to tap into our love for gaming and turn it into something good – indeed gamification is increasingly used by organisations as a tool for peace, social cohesion, public health and education for example – and with some three billion hours per week being spent on gaming globally, clearly this game's reach potential is huge. By engaging casual gamers around the world, the app allows scientists to collect a large amount of data at 150 times the normal speed it would take them when working under research lab conditions: according its website, playing the game for just two minutes generates the equivalent amount of data of five hours of 'conventional' research. Since its launch five years ago, the game has been downloaded 1.3 million times.
Although not generally enthused by computer games, I certainly am inspired by Sea Hero Quest and its potential for helping scientists find a cure for dementia. The game app is available for free from App Store and Google Store; before you download it, you can find out a little more about the project in this video: