One of the issues that researchers looking into the causes and cures for dementia run into is not having enough data to know when a person begins to show symptoms of the disease. The folks at GLITCHERS and scientists from University College London, University of East Anglia, and Alzheimer's Research created an iOS game called Sea Hero Quest that leverages Apple's ResearchKit framework to let researchers capture anonymized data for study.
The researchers say that playing the game for just 2 minutes generates the equivalent of 5 hours of lab-based research data, so the game is surprisingly useful to them. At this point, over 3 million people have played the game, all contributing data to the largest dementia study ever.
What the game does in the guise of having fun is actually capture information about human spatial navigation. An early sign of dementia is the loss of navigational skills, and one of the goals of Sea Hero Quest and the research project is to develop a benchmark of what is considered "normal" navigational skill deterioration associated with aging, and how it differs from that caused by dementia.
The idea is that eventually the data can lead to the development of new diagnostic tools and treatments for dementia. The game is free, and you're contributing to valuable research -- why haven't you downloaded Sea Hero Quest yet?