Joining the crowded space of brain training software, Intendu says it has succeeded where others failed to help the brain impaired
Although IFI would not disclose the precise amount of the investment, Yali Harari, a general partner at Impact First Investments, tells Geektime they usually invest “between one and a few hundred thousand dollars.”
This brings the total seed round investment in Intendu to $1.2 million, with $800,000 raised from private investors including Eva Ventures and another $400,000 from the Office of the Israeli Chief Scientist.
The solution provides brain training through adaptive video games that involve physical activity, including games that target training of cognitive functions such as multi-tasking, memory, inhibition, self-initiation, and more.
Intendu’s solution is targeted at the people who most need brain rehabilitation, the company’s CEO Son Preminger explains to Geektime. “People who suffer from post-traumatic brain injury and stroke.”
Eventually, she said, the solution can be adapted to the elderly, and people with mental illness and neurological diseases. In the future, these video games will also be applicable to anyone who wants to improve their brain performance.
After leaving the hospital
The pain point that Intendu addresses is that people who suffer brain injuries often need much more intensive rehabilitation than they currently are getting.
“After they leave the clinic or hospital, there is nothing out there for them. They deteriorate. They can’t work and can’t function normally,” Preminger tells us.
Even within hospitals and clinics the current level of brain training is less than state of the art.
“There are memory games for kids and pen and pencil exercises,” explains Preminger. “These are boring, it’s difficult to measure performance and they’re very different from real-life experience.”
Preminger said the test of a good rehabilitation exercise is the ability to transfer the skills learned to real life. In an ideal world, a brain injury victim would receive several hours of occupational therapy every day after they left the hospital. But this is extremely costly, and even in countries where such benefits are available, they involve driving significant distances, which many brain injury victims can no longer do.
That’s why cognitive training software is such a no-brainer (forgive the pun). It’s relatively inexpensive, engaging, and can be done from the comfort of a patient’s own home. But not all cognitive training software is created equal.
Preminger asserts that, “A lot of cognitive training software out there is very primitive. It’s older generation. It’s on your computer or tablet or phone and you just use your fingers, not your whole body. It’s also a very artificial environment so even if you learn to do multitasking in the game, you may not improve in real-life.”
Criticizing the hype
Indeed, along with the excitement over brain training video games there has been some criticism.
In October, the Stanford Center on Longevity published an open letter entitled A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community. It is signed by a who’s who of academic psychologists.
The letter specified that, “The consensus of the group is that claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading. Cognitive training produces statistically significant improvement in practiced skills that sometimes extends to improvement on other cognitive tasks administered in the lab. In some studies, such gains endure, while other reports document dissipation over time. In commercial promotion, these small, narrow, and fleeting advances are often billed as general and lasting improvements of mind and brain. The aggressive advertising entices consumers to spend money on products and to take up new behaviors, such as gaming, based on these exaggerated claims.”
In response to such criticism, Son Preminger, who has a PhD in neuroscience and a Harvard MBA, told Geektime that, “I have heard this many times. It’s like saying all medicines don’t work. It depends on what video game and what dose. The experience of one software is totally different from that of another.”
Intendu, Preminger says, really is different from other brain training software on the market.
“The reason I founded this company is because I saw the current market is not doing the right thing. When we show our product to clinicians in Israel and the U.S. they get excited. They say, ‘you are doing something different.’”
What Intendu does differently, explains Preminger, is track and adjust in real time and it is also based on your whole body and speech, not just finger swipes.
To check it out in action, watch this video:
First, you need a Kinect camera or at least a webcam to use the software so you can move with your whole body and not just your fingers. Then the software puts you in situations that you might encounter in real life, such as interacting with people or serving food to them. You might practice multitasking by serving food to several guests at once, and self-control by not serving to people you shouldn’t, etc.
“Intendu tracks the person in real time with the camera and the game is created dynamically for the person: We are engineers of experiences.”
Take a memory game, for instance, where you have to remember two items in a sequence, then three items, then four. etc. In most brain training games, if you get up to a level, say four items, and you make a mistake, the game will simply go down a level.
But actually, says Preminger, there are a lot of reasons the patient could have made a mistake. “He wasn’t fast enough, or got the order wrong or couldn’t see the left side.” Intendu, which is currently conducting clinical trials of its solution, tracks the patient. If the issue was his reaction time was too slow, it will slow down the game but still let the patient advance to a new level.
Socially conscious investing
IFI is an Israeli investment firm that exclusively invests in viable and socially driven hi-tech companies. “Intendu is a true example of merging modern technology with the highest level of neuroscience research,” Cecile Blilious, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of IFI, said in a statement.
“As the use of interactive technology continues to become mainstream in every aspect of our lives, it is imperative that we adapt their uses for those most in need.”