A new mobile game is aiming to further the fight against Alzheimer’s by enlisting the help of thousands of gamers worldwide.
Sea Hero Quest, a puzzle game that leads players through mazes of islands and icebergs, has been produced by Deutsche Telecom in conjunction with scientists from the University of College London (UCL), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
It aims to create a massive crowdsourced data set to benchmark human spacial awareness and navigation – both early signs of the onset of dementia.
As players make their way through the quest, navigating mazes, shooting flares and photographing creatures, their gameplay is translated into data, which is stored anonymously at a secure centre in Munich.
From there, scientists will try and work out how well people do at different ages, of different sexes, and in different parts of the world.
The makers of the game say that one person playing the game for two minutes equates to some five hours of traditional research.
Hilary Evans, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Chief Executive, said that the scale of the experiment is unprecedented.
“Until now these kind of investigations took years to coordinate and at best gave us a snap shot of how a very small sample of volunteers behaved,” she said.
“The largest spatial navigation study to date comprised less than 600 volunteers. Providing the research community with access to an open source data set of this nature, at this scale, in such a short period of time is exactly the kind of innovation required to unlock the next breakthrough in dementia research.”
In the UK, 850,000 live with dementia, with that number expected to rise to 2 million by 2050, Alzheimer’s UK say.