Meet Bandit, he's a dolphin. A really cool dolphin - like, the coolest! He's also the star of a little video game called BanditÃ¢ÂÂs 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
In BanditÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
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
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. BanditÃ¢ÂÂs Shark Showdown was designed with this relationship in mind - excuse the pun.
Ahmad, stated that the team has created Ã¢ÂÂartistic technologies to help heal JohnÃ¢ÂÂs patients.Ã¢ÂÂ But rather than limiting these tests to the confines of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bandit has brought the power to the people.
Ã¢ÂÂWe depend on user feedback to improve the game for JohnÃ¢ÂÂs stroke patients,Ã¢ÂÂ Ahmad said. Ã¢ÂÂThis canÃ¢ÂÂt work without an iterative loop between the market and the hospital.Ã¢ÂÂ
BanditÃ¢ÂÂs 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, Ã¢ÂÂWorking with oneÃ¢ÂÂs hands is working with oneÃ¢ÂÂs mind.Ã¢ÂÂ
So, How Does It Help?
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.
In BanditÃ¢ÂÂs 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!
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:
Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs trying to apply things that we have developed in basic science to actually help patients. And I know thatÃ¢ÂÂs what youÃ¢ÂÂre supposed to do, but, by God, there are very few people who really do it.Ã¢ÂÂ
An Inspiration to Us All
Profits for BanditÃ¢ÂÂs 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?