VR being used to help scientists diagnose dementia

Sea Hero Quest is a mobile game that helps scientists gather data on dementia -- and the new VR version is expected to give them 15 times the information.

Sea Hero Quest seeks to help scientists develop a new way to diagnose dementia in its early stages.
Sea Hero Quest

VR may have become mainstream entertainment tech, but it's slowly becoming a hit in the science field too. 

Sea Hero Quest VR was launched yesterday for Samsung's Gear VR and Facebook's Oculus Rift to collect and analyse data on dementia as part of the world's largest research experiment on the disease, BBC reported.

The game already exists as a mobile app -- one that's been downloaded more than 3 millions times -- but the new VR version will generate "15 times more data," Max Scott-Slade, one of its developers from development studio Glitchers, told the BBC

The original mobile game was created by Glitchers along with researchers at Alzheimer's Research UK and several universities, who all seek to find a way to detect dementia in its early stages.

You play a boat captain in the game, navigating the seas and chasing creatures. That's because one of the first things dementia patients lose is the ability to navigate. The game gathers data by recording the actions you take, as well as the duration of time you spend looking around. In just two minutes, it gives scientists the equivalent of five hours of lab-based research, its developers say.

Dementia has been diagnosed in 47 million people worldwide -- 5.5 million of whom live in the US -- with nearly 10 million new cases every year, according to the World Health Organisation. The number is set to almost triple to 132 million by 2050.

It's not the first time scientists are using VR to aid in health advancements. The technology has previously been used in helping patients to recover from stroke and restore some of their lost sight.  

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