Lumosity’s original slogan was “Reclaim your brain”, and went to “Your brain, just brighter”, and then “Discover what your brain can do”, and even has said that using it will give you your “full potential in every aspect of life.” But their app page, at the moment, says that it will train your “Memory, Attention, and more”.
Lumosity, and Lumos labs, was started in 2005 by its three co-creators: Kunal Sarkar, Michael Scanlon, and David Drescher. Michael Scanlon was the main driving force of the team, which he started before dropping out his Ph.D courses at Stanford to work on Lumos Labs full time. Kunal Sarkar would be the company's first CEO, but it has since left the hands of all three of them. Their about section doesn’t even mention these founding members on their webpage, unlike the majority of other apps I’ve come across.
You might remember their ads. They were everywhere in 2014, and I’ve linked to a few in this article if you want to see where this story really got interesting. These ads led to an FTC investigation of the company, who fined Lumosity $2 Million, with an additional $50 million judgement if they didn’t fix their issues in 2016. I’ve linked to the ftc article above under the promise section, but, to summarize the article with the best quote:
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
I was unable to find any recent numbers as to how their revenue has changed since the verdict, as it may be too soon to know how the company will bounce back, but it still holds a 4.2 / 5 rating on google play, with over 10 million downloads.
This app will get a decent score because of the “Design” and “Fun” portion, but we’re going to have a long talk about it’s worth, and I might weight it differently because of it.
For those that don’t know, I’ll grade this app on 3 distinct areas:
-Design (Good to look at, easy to use)
-Fun (Does it feel like a chore to do, or like a game)
-Worth (Does it help you do the thing it says it will help you do)
Obviously not everything worth doing is fun, not everything fun is easy to do, and not everything pretty is substantive.
It’s a nice looking app. It has the geometric art style I like my apps to have, the games look awesome. It’s full of easy to understand progress trackers. It’s obvious a lot of thought, effort, and money, were put into making this thing good looking and easy to use. But this isn’t why I’m here today.
Fine, fine, whatever. Design: A
I loved the games the first time I played them. Heck, I loved the games the second and third times I played them. Some of them I even played beyond my daily allotment because I loved the puzzles. But a few of the games got extremely stale annoyingly quickly. I’d dread playing some games because I simply didn’t enjoy them, and I just skipped them in some instances. Pet Detective, Trouble Brewing, and Pirate Passage were ones I could play for days. River Ranger, Tidal Treasures, and Playing Koi made me dislike any good experience I had with the others, especially because you had no choice over which ones were assigned to your daily workout.
Win, lose, let’s move on. Fun: C+
There is a free version of this app, but if you are going to do it, you will want all the games, and the games are behind a paywall of $11.95 a month to $299.95 for a lifetime membership. It promises to make you better at memory and attention, and if the FTC strike against them wasn’t enough, let’s delve into some scholarly journals.
In “Computers and Education” a study was conducted between two groups of students given a problem solving and spatial skills test, then told to play a video game, and then they took the test again. Group one was given Lumosity to play for 8 hours, group two was given Portal 2. Portal 2 players scored higher on all standards.
In “Brain Injury”, patients with a traumatic head injury were given Lumosity to see if its “Neuroplasticity claim” really worked. It did, but only for the game. Patients saw no increase in brain function outside of the tasks presented in the game.
And then, in the American Psychological Association, a test was given with three groups, a control, one with a visually stimulating placebo, and lumosity. The placebo group and the lumosity group did improve at the tasks they were studying, but it did not transfer to larger cognitive skills.
There is some evidence that playing video game, the right games, does impact your abilities slightly, but only when used correctly. I’d like to see more research like the one with Portal 2, to see if any games actually enhance cognitive skills. But, for what I found, Lumosity wasn’t one of them. Worth: F
You can buy the entire WarioWare series on Amazon for, at the time of this writing, $240, $60 less than the lifetime membership of this app. Its games are more fun, and you’ll get the same mental stimulation out of it, regardless of where the science ends up on video games and your brain. Final Score: D-