ByKen McDonnell, writer at Creators.co
Now Loading's sentimental Irishman. I can't stop playing Overwatch, please send help.
Ken McDonnell

Meet Bandit, he's a dolphin. A really cool dolphin - like, the coolest! He's also the star of a little video game called Bandit’s Shark Showdown, which was one of the first apps designed for the Apple TV.

Created by team leader Omar Ahmad, along with Kat McNally and Promit Roy, who work for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the team wanted to design a game that would - naturally - become a commercial success, but also help permanently improve how we combat mental impairment. Wow.

Bandit - A Symbol of Hope

Watch out for those hammerheads, B!
Watch out for those hammerheads, B!

In Bandit’s Shark Showdown, you take control of an adorable young dolphin who fends off attacking sharks and other fish with bolts of ruby light. You can see the little guy in action in the trailer below, but know that his movements and the game's coding are deeply informed by the neurobiology of action. Let me explain.

[[jwplayer:0kVeSRjz]]

Bandit was created in conjunction with a neuroscientist and neurologist, John Krakauer. John monitors numerous patients who've suffered from strokes, and he has tirelessly worked on improving the process of rehabilitation. He's constantly seeking new methods to aid patients' potential recoveries, and Bandit may represent the future of this process.

Changing the Face of Stroke Rehabilitation

We're connected.
We're connected.

In the medical sphere, Krauker and his team of scientists called BLAM! (great name, guys) are conducting experiments to further understand how the brain controls the body. Bandit’s Shark Showdown was designed with this relationship in mind - excuse the pun.

Ahmad, stated that the team has created “artistic technologies to help heal John’s patients.” But rather than limiting these tests to the confines of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bandit has brought the power to the people.

“We depend on user feedback to improve the game for John’s stroke patients,” Ahmad said. “This can’t work without an iterative loop between the market and the hospital.”
John Krauker
John Krauker

Bandit’s Shark Showdown is a rehabilitative game. It aims to create a link between the player's nervous system and the simulated dolphin that you control. In a way, the game tests the brain function of its players.

Bandit will push the boundaries of what we think stroke victims are capable of. For instance, hands are often seen as impossible hurdles for stroke victims to regain control of. Showdown aims to combat this falsity. In the words of Krauker, “Working with one’s hands is working with one’s mind.”

So, How Does It Help?

Whaaaat?
Whaaaat?

Your brain is amazing. Seriously. Even the act of using your mouse, TrackPad, or thumb to open and scroll through this article needs an incredibly sophisticated set of computations. But we're used to it. When a stroke occurs, these functions that we don't even have to consciously think about become challenges.

That's where Bandit comes in!
That's where Bandit comes in!

In Bandit’s Shark Showdown the player has to use a varying degree of skill and timing in order to keep little Bandit alive. Attack sharks, dodge sharks - seems simple. But video games have often been used in science to help test things like hand-eye coordination, and studies have proven that certain challenges which games present you with can actually improve your cognitive functions!

There you go, you can actually get smarter from playing certain games - wish I knew that when I tried to justify playing hundreds of hours as a kid...

Video Games Can Positively Affect Your Brain!

The map of Showdown!
The map of Showdown!

But rather than it being an after thought or coincidental, Showdown is used in conjunction with robotics to significantly reduce the impairments of patients.

Movement of a stroke patient's arm, placed in a robotic sling, manipulates the digital dolphin on a screen. Bandit swims with the fluidity of a real dolphin (and an aquatic swagger), catches fish, and swallows them in a symphony of crunching sounds. - National Geographic

BLAM! want to show that the future of tackling impairments from strokes is taking place in their offices and classrooms. Reza Shadmehr, a colleague of Johns Hopkins, said:

“He’s trying to apply things that we have developed in basic science to actually help patients. And I know that’s what you’re supposed to do, but, by God, there are very few people who really do it.”

An Inspiration to Us All

Thanks, Bandit!
Thanks, Bandit!

Profits for Bandit’s Shark Showdown will help BLAM! fund their project, and aid them in conducting more and more experiments with their little game. They believe that Bandit can help countless stroke victims fight their impairments in a fun and engaging way, with positive results. What more could you ask for?

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Sources: [New Yorker] [National Geographic]