Lumosity is a collection of brain training games you can play on any device. The company has claimed these games enhance brain functions, pointing to findings in neuroscience and scientific studies to back up its claims. Now the US Federal Trade Commission made them pay $2 million in refunds to settle federal charges that Lumosity deceived customers about the cognitive and health benefits of its apps and online products. In details:
Regulators accused San Francisco-based Lumos Labs of making unfounded claims about what its games could do to delay the symptoms of and protect against conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and to reduce cognitive impairment from stroke and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
I’ve played games 2364 times on Lumosity since July, 2013. I rarely miss a day and it has turned out to be a great method for improving some of my cognitive skills. I think false claims must be punished. But this case perfectly demonstrates what misconceptions people have about new health technologies. Most people expect technologies and digital services to transform their lives miraculously.
When starting to use a new tool or service, many expect it to lead to guaranteed lifestyle changes. After quantifying my health for over a decade, I’m convinced it doesn’t work like that. Each of us has to put in the effort to change ingrained habits and make use of data and possibilities that these tools grant us. There’s no “easy way” to upgrade your health, even with technology.
After playing Lumosity for years, I’ve gained two major benefits from it:
- I love playing these games – data show my stress levels go way down after I’ve played my daily dose.
- The methods of thought the games force me to master are useful when solving complicated problems in other parts of my life.
I’m convinced my reflexes, attention span, memory and mental flexibility have become better purely because I have been consistently playing those games. A few concrete examples:
- Speed Pack and River Ranger taught me how to be perfectly efficient at doing a task. While I’m in meetings, I try to make them as useful as possible. I do that by really focusing on what’s ahead of me. I almost always manage to get the most out of my meetings.
- Train of Thought still teaches me how to pay attention to several things at once. When I sit down to focus on replying to many e-mails, I need to gather information, read the messages, write the replies in a way that I don’t spend hours there. This game was designed to help me with that.
- Disillusion provided me with methods to look at the same thing from two angles without making a mistake. My job as the Medical Futurist involves coming up with visions based on recent findings and new technologies. These games helped me how to have a fresh look at the same thing to illuminate the reasoning behind them.
Lumosity will not go down with this decision. Hopefully they learned an important lesson about making health claims without solid data to back them up. It endangers the very real value they CAN provide to some of us.
I will definitely keep playing, and recommend you start improving your health, lifestyle and skills as well. To improve cognitive skills, I still believe Lumosity is a good choice. I have no scientific studies to back this up, only my 2 years+ of positive experience.
A few weeks ago I wrote about future video gamers becoming athletes.
As technology today doesn’t just get upgraded, but improves at an amazing pace; it might have some surprises for us in the coming years. What if video games assisted by virtual reality devices and whole body sensors would increase the experience of being inside a game by moving in real life? What if gamers will have to run in real to let the character in the game run faster? This area is called exergaming and it is about to boom.
Today I saw the announcement about the Omni + Vive/Lighthouse Demo and immediately thought that It’s not just coming, but it’s already here. See it yourself:
This integrated setup results in a fully decoupled first-person shooter experience with two independent pistols. Players can walk forward, backwards and sideways in 360 degrees on the Omni independently from their looking and aiming directions. Just imagine, now you can take out your targets while running backwards, looking forward, and shooting left and right at the same time! This level of freedom of movement in VR is a new milestone for us and creates the fun VR experience we always dreamed of.
Years ago, I had a chance to receive a few copies of Re-Mission and distribute it to local pediatric clinics. I can tell you children fighting cancer loved the game. Now I was glad to read the news about the launch of Re-Mission 2. The company behind it, HopeLab, managed to find big sponsors including the LiveStrong Foundation to improve the game and push it to the next level.
More than five years in the making, Re-Mission 2 consists of six free-to-play online minigames launching tomorrow with a host of support from charities, medical researchers, and major corporations.
The new titles are on the leading edge of “games for health,” a movement to take the engagement of gaming and turn it to the cause of improving health.
Here is the official trailer:
I’ve recently come across this very interesting exhibit of scientific games such as the Game Arthritis or the My Life Walkthrough.
My Life Walkthough is a platform adventure game version of the popular lifebook format used in reminiscence therapies for older adults with dementia. Reminiscence therapy is a format which acknowledges that older adults with dementia may not remember the recent past, but their retention for early life is good. Building upon recall of early events has been shown to improve communication and mood among older adults with dementia, and can even improve their memory of later life events.
A few words about Game Arthritis:
In 2011, IOCOSE and Matteo Bittanti worked together to create Game Arthritis, a staged photographic documentation of deformities induced by video gaming. What are the real effects of digital gaming on our fingers, hands and bodies? Game Arthritis is an ongoing project that imagines a future where the conformity of interfaces on everyday devices is beginning to produce real physical consequences for the users.
Yesterday, Boehringer launched a social game for pharma which is going to be a milestone in the history of pharma’s role in improving social media. Here is Syrum.
Boehringer Ingelheim last night unveiled its most ambitious attempt yet to harness the power of gaming at a consumer-style launch event held at the Science Museum in London.
Its long-awaited Facebook game Syrum challenges players to run their own pharmaceutical company and develop drugs to combat a range of deadly diseases.
Explaining the company’s reasons for developing the game Boehringer’s director of digital John Pugh told PMLiVE: “We built Syrum with a view to creating an ecosystem through which we could engage with people around education. It’s also to do with reputation management, market research and recruiting talent.
I’ve come across a flash educational application that lets you get a picture of the scale of the universe from blood cells and atoms to galaxies and planets. Give it a try!
A few weeks ago, I was a keynote speaker at the Games for Health conference in Amsterdam. I talked about social games, crowdsourcing in medicine and science and also about the importance of including health gaming in medical education. My speech is now published.