Sea Hero Quest is at first glance a heartwarming game for iOS and Android that asks a young boy to help his father tackle his increasing memory loss.
It is much more than a game though, it is the world’s largest dementia research experiment and this week the full scale of its achievements were revealed.
In less than a year the app has created the kind of data that its creators say would take 9,500 years to collect in lab conditions.
2.5 million people have played the game so far and have accrued a staggering 63 years of gameplay in total.
Professor of applied dementia research at the University of East Anglia, Michael Hornberger said to the BBC: “The amount of data that has already been generated by people playing Sea Hero Quest all around the world is phenomenal and is enabling us to reveal a vital global benchmark of how people, of all ages and from all over the use spatial navigation.”
The game asks players to remember locations and navigate a small fishing vessel around a map.
By anonymously recording the data the researchers were able to create a huge timeline which showed a sense of direction decline from the ages of 19 to 75.
Other interesting findings show that men have a slightly better sense of direction than women and that the Nordic nations are by far the best performers.
The hope is that by using all this data researchers will be able to create a powerful diagnostic tool which, like the game, can analyse a person’s mental abilities and then accurately diagnose or predict if they’re likely to have Alzheimer’s disease.
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