Around 7.7 million new cases of dementia are reported each year. That adds to the 47.5 million people who are already affected by the disease. But what if there was a way to detect dementia's earliest warning signs? Now, there is!
Researchers at University College London have been developing a virtual reality game that can detect whether a person is at risk of getting dementia down the road.
Sea Hero Quest is a game that's already in existence, however, the researchers have developed a version specifically for smartphones that uses augmented reality.
The objective of the game is for players to sail a ship through various routes while searching for designated objects. Part of the game also involves remembering past routes you've traveled. Because of this, just two minutes of gameplay can provide researchers with the same amount of data as five hours of in-lab studies.
How the player chooses to navigate through each route provides clues as to whether or not that person is showing early signs of getting dementia.
So far, the smartphone version of Sea Hero Quest has been tested by around 3 million people. Data from players are collected, however, it is all anonymous. Still, from that data, researchers have been able to identify key trends pertaining to people's ability to navigate.
The data clearly show that navigational skills begin to deteriorate as early as age 19, and continue on through middle age.
Sea Hero Quest is a free download that anyone can play (Apple | Android). Just know that if you download the app, data from your gameplay will be collected and evaluated. We'd never recommend anything that wasn't safe. None of your personal information is tied to your data, so your identity remains anonymous.
This isn't the first time we've seen advances in technology coming to the aid of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Last fall, we told you about an app that helps caregivers modify their homes in ways that help people to remember where things are located. This app is great for people who'd like to let their loved ones keep as much independence as possible during the early phases.
On a side note, there has also been an exciting breakthrough for anyone who's suffering from diabetes. Now, instead of pricking your finger every day to test your blood sugar levels, you can use your smartphone's camera. Click here for details on the amazing new app that makes this possible.