September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day ; now is probably better a time than any to help research on dementia makes its next leap forward.
Game company Glitchers developed the game Sea Hero Quest, where a man sets out to recover his father’s lost memories. Going on a virtual adventure is certainly fun, but the game also makes an impact in the physical world : it aims at pinpointing the exact mechanisms that come into play when humans attempts to find their bearings in order to take research on Alzheimer’s to the next level.
Sea Hero Quest : taking research on Alzheimer’s to the next level
One of the first symptoms of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular is an impaired sense of direction ; therefore one of the top challenges of related research is to get a clear understanding of the way men and women find their bearings and what happens when they get lost.
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With that end in mind, Glitchers, a company specialising in scientifically-oriented games, created Sea Hero Quest with the support of German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom and other organisations such as Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The general idea is simple : a young man must retrace the route his father took in order to retrieve his lost memories, within five different layouts. Players will have to find their bearings and fight off sea monsters : all the while, their positions will be relayed to a team of scientists who will use them as a means to pinpoint the orientation mechanisms that come into play when trying to get through several labyrinths.
“What makes this project really unique is the combination of cutting edge science with a games design company to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people in an experiment that we couldn’t do in a lab.” UCL neuroscientist Hugo Spiers declared.
Sea Hero Quest : an unprecedented use of big data in research
100 000 people playing for just two minutes each could make as great an impact on scientific knowledge on dementia as a 50-year lab research.
“We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before,” Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, declared. “The largest spatial navigation study to date comprised fewer 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.”
Saa Hero Quest is the first game directly involved in a scientific endeavour, but others have been aiming at raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease : the game ALZ, for instance, allows players put themselves in the shoes of somebody with Alzheimer’s and experiment firsthand how the disease impacts their daily lives.
Sea Hero Quest’s promotional video :
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