utilities

Epic Quest

Tim Parry

Sea Hero Quest, the smartphone game Alzheimer’s Research UK helped to create in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, UCL and the University of East Anglia, has now sailed past a colossal 1.5 million downloads. The colourful maze game allows players to pilot a boat through exotic seascapes, and opt to share their movements through the game with scientists to help improve our understanding of how we navigate through space.

Our hope was that thousands of people would play the game to share their data and give us a benchmark for healthy human navigation. We can then use this benchmark to help develop better and more sensitive ways of detecting the problems with navigation that people with dementia commonly experience, and usually as an early symptom. It opens to the door to more timely diagnosis and access to existing and future treatments at a time when they are more likely to be beneficial. Read more about the project on our launch blog, or take a look at the project film for the background.

Our hopes for thousands of participants were vastly exceeded, and with two thirds of players sharing their data from gameplay, we now have a dataset of over one million people, an unprecedented resource collected in a unique and engaging way. Alzheimer’s Research UK has helped fund scientists at UCL who are now analysing the dataset and will be sharing results, findings and insights with the field as the year goes on. We’ll report on everything we find out.

But there’s more. Two new sets of levels have recently been released, so if you played Sea Hero Quest soon after launch, get the update and have a go at the new zones. As part of this expansion, we’ve introduced a few more simple questions for players that will help us make the data we collect even more valuable for research efforts. There’s also the introduction of a new “radial maze” level that challenges players on decision making in navigation – give it a go. The richer and more varied the data is, the more insights we can reach from this unique experiment.

If the enormous amount of players and time devoted to Sea Hero Quest gameplay weren’t enough, we’re also celebrating success at June’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where the game picked up nine awards: one gold, five silver and three bronze medals across a host of categories. This is great recognition for a new way of thinking about how research can be conducted – in a way that is fun, engaging and that achieves a scale of participation that really can’t be reached through traditional means.

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