Innovation That Matters

Gamified cancer research harnesses the power of the crowd

Sport & Fitness

Reverse the Odds is a game from Cancer Research UK that enables players to assist scientists by analyzing real cancer data embedded in a fun challenge.

The mobile gaming industry is continuing to boom and play is an important aspect of any balanced lifestyle. On the other hand, games such as the highly successful Candy Crush Saga often cross the line from entertainment into time-draining addiction. Happily, many companies are harnessing the consumer’s passion for gaming to encourage positive lifestyle choices — such as China’s Timi Run Everyday which exchanges in-game rewards for outdoor exercise. Now, charities worldwide are finding ways to make play socially beneficial by converting gaming time into useful research. Cancer Research UK is adding to it’s Citizen Science program with Reverse the Odds — a free mobile app that assists vital research into bladder and lung cancer by finding patterns in the scientific data.

In the game — playable on mobile or tablet — players rescue a race of colorful creatures called The Odds by solving simple puzzles. However, as Cancer Research UK explains there is also something much more important going on:

“The images players are seeing are magnified samples of real tumor tissue donated by former patients. By answering simple questions about this data, players are helping our scientists to learn more about cancer, and more effectively prescribe the most appropriate treatment options for future patients.”

The data collected is fed back to the scientists who then use it to understand cancer better. Since thousands of players are expected, errors are accounted for so individuals don’t need to worry about making mistakes. You can see researcher Anne Kiltie explain more about the science involved in the video below:

Reverse the Odds is available free from the Apple Store, Google Play and Amazon.

Researchers obtain massive amounts of data but the process of analyzing it is hugely time consuming and Reverse the Odds enables consumers to help in a small but significant way. Are there other ways that companies can use gamification and crowdsourcing to spread the burden of huge tasks?



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