On the face of it, Sea Hero Quest VR might look just like any other run-of-the-mill VR offering, but this game - which we first told you about in 2017 - was developed to help identify players with early symptoms of dementia - often much earlier than current medical screening. And it's working.
According to a recent article published in the journal PNAS (thanks, Kotaku), Sea Hero Quest VR - developed by Glitchers in partnership with Deutsche Telekom and a number of universities across Europe - was designed in collaboration with leading neuroscientists to generate scientifically-credible data to further our understanding of dementia in an "engaging and fun experience".
Incredibly, the report states that two minutes spent playing this game is the equivalent of five hours of lab-based research - and the developers of the game purport the equivalent of 15,000 years of similar lab-based research has already been generated by the game.
The studies currently focus on those players known to carry the APOE4 gene - thought to increase someone's chances of developing dementia later on - and those who do not. "We found that people with a high genetic risk, the APOE4 carriers, performed worse on spatial navigation tasks. They took less efficient routes to checkpoint goals," said Professor Michael Hornberger, who contributed to the project.
"To address this growing health threat, in 2016, we developed Sea Hero Quest for mobile to disrupt data collection methods and create the first global benchmark for how humans navigate," developer Glitchers states on its website. "Assessing one's spatial ability is an important stage in the diagnosis of the condition. Since its launch, 3.5 million people in 193 countries have played Sea Hero Quest and contributed the equivalent of 15,000 years of similar lab-based research."
"We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before," said Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Research UK, Hilary Evans. "The data set that Sea Hero Quest generates is truly unprecedented."