How does “Sea Hero Quest” help in dementia research?
- When users play the game, their in-game location and activities get sent to researchers.
- This shows researchers how they navigate the map.
- The data they receive is so useful that 2 in-game minutes equals to 5 hours of traditional research.
- With this effectivity along with over 87 decades’ worth of gameplay, Deutsche Telekom and their partners (Alzheimer’s Research UK, The University of East Anglia, and University College London) have gathered 131 years’ worth of data.
- This effectivity on a global scale allowed Deutsche Telekom and their partners to create global benchmark regarding the decline of navigational skills and discover new technique in diagnosing and identifying the early signs of dementia.
“Sea Hero Quest” is a game that dementia caregivers in Chicago give heavy praise. This is because, while it is a game, its main purpose is to conduct dementia research. But just exactly how did Deutsche Telekom, Alzheimer’s Research UK, The University of East Anglia, and University College London do this?
A Study of Navigation Skills
The game requires players to memorize and navigate a map/maze, chase creatures to take photos of them, and to shoot flares. Basically, the game requires good navigational and memorization skills for someone to excel at it.
So how does this help in dementia research? While there is still little known about the disease, one of the things that researchers know for sure is that diminishing of navigational skills is one of its first effects. By studying data of how people with and without dementia navigate the boat in the game, they get to see how the human brain and these navigational skills are affected by the disease.
A Worldwide Database and a Global Benchmark
Being that the game has been played by 3 million people worldwide. This makes it one of the largest efforts in dementia research to date. The data gathered from the game will form a global benchmark regarding what unaffected navigational skills look like. This benchmark can help develop new techniques in identifying and diagnosing the disease. This means that eventually new medicines may be developed for patients afflicted with dementia.
Through a simple game, we may be that much closer to finding the cure to this disease. It might not be long before dementia caregivers see their patients make great strides towards improvement.
How Data is Gathered
As you play the game, the position of your boat on the map gets sent to the scientist in the form of a heat map. With this, they get to see where you are the most of the map, which paths you choose to take, where you often get lost, etc. It basically shows how the brain works when it comes to navigating a map. When dementia patients play the game, they are likely to get lost more often.
2 In-Game Minutes Equals 5 Hours of Lab Research
When players play the game for 2 minutes, the amount of data that the researchers would get from it would equal to 5 hours of research in a lab. That’s 150 times faster! Being that the total worldwide playing time is already at 87 decades, a total of 131 centuries worth of lab data has already been gathered from it!
Data has shown that navigational skills start to deteriorate at the age of 19. Also, researchers have seen that there is a great difference between the navigation of men and women.
Introduction of VR
The game is also now available in Virtual Reality (VR). Not only does this make the game more fun, but it makes data gathering more accurate. In addition, VR can track eye movements, which is another useful factor for research.
Being that VR is very intuitive in nature, a wider audience can be reached; meaning those elders that aren’t very technologically savvy. With the help of their relatives and dementia caregivers in Chicago, these patients can play the game, which will be great for research and data.
Is It A Game Only For Dementia Patients?
No, anyone can play it. In fact, undiagnosed people are encouraged to play as well. This is because, as mention earlier, the game aims to provide a global benchmark. The benchmark can’t be made without being able to compare data from afflicted and unaffected people.
The reason why dementia caregivers in Chicago highly praise this game is because its contribution to dementia research. The speed and amount of data it can gather is 150 times faster than that of traditional lab research. With such efficiency, we can only hope to soon find the cure to dementia. For now, it’s a good way to spot the early signs of dementia so that your loved ones can immediately get the care that they need.