Put away childish things? This video game is designed to treat adult ADHD

September 7, 2023 | By Anthony Venutolo

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In Tech is our regular feature highlighting what people are talking about in the world of technology — everything from crypto and NFTs to smart cities and cybersecurity. 

A therapeutic … video game? A prescription digital medicine company has made its mobile video game designed to reduce the symptoms of ADHD available to adults over the counter – well, via Apple’s App Store.

Akili recently launched EndeavorOTC for adults, although it has been available via prescription to children for years (and cleared by the Food & Drug Administration) to help them better manage distractions and improve their attention span.

Akili, founded in 2011, licensed the tech based on a study by co-founder Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist and professor at the University of California San Francisco, on a video game that activated neural networks in the brain, improving focus.

The R&D eventually morphed into EndeavorRx, available only by prescription and geared towards children. Prescribed more than 10,000 times, the game helped Akili land on Fast Company‘s 2021 list of the most innovative medicines and therapeutics companies.

The EndeavorOTC version was designed by mobile gaming designer Jon David (“Plants vs. Zombies” and “Bejeweled”), and is meant to be played for a total of six weeks, five days a week for 25 minutes each day — and cuts off after that.

So how does it work? Gamers are required to do two simultaneous challenges at once: target and navigate. When targeting, they’ll tap specific stimuli while letting other distractions go by. When navigating, they’ll travel through a course to avoid obstacles. Doing both simultaneously challenges and alters pathways in the brain, boosting attention and focus, the company says. 

Akili says its clinical study showed that even though the best results come with a six-week routine, many participants showed substantial improvements in attention and clinical functioning with less play time.

“By design it’s challenging,” co-founder Eddie Martucci told Fast Company. “While it may be fun compared to activities like exercise or homework, it’s a treatment first and foremost, different than a game developed for the sole purpose of entertainment.”

Medication and behavioral therapy remain the most widely used therapies for ADHD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47% of kids with ADHD undergo behavior counseling and about 62% of kids with ADHD use medication.

“If you think about it, ADHD treatments haven’t changed since the 1960s when we were prescribing Ritalin,” Scott Kollins, chief medical officer at Akili, told Fast Company. “The frontline treatment isn’t moving the needle on improving people’s outcomes.”

Return of the king

The Atari 2600. If there was ever a Mount Rushmore of video game platforms, the legendary late ‘70s console that paved the way for every Nintendo, PlayStation and Sega Genesis that came after would certainly be etched in stone.

And sure, while there may be plenty of original consoles to be had on eBay, they don't have the trappings modern gamers look for, like HDMI ports, USB-C power or multiple resolutions. Gen Xers rejoice, because Atari recently announced that the legendary platform will make its triumphant return on Nov. 17. 

Released in 1977, the Atari 2600 was the first console to use microprocessor-based hardware and swappable ROM cartridges. It was lauded for its durability — who among us has not kicked a console when Pitfall Harry fell into a tar pit? — ease of use and wide variety of original and arcade games. At the time, there wasn’t a Sears Wishbook in sight that didn’t have its pages bookmarked for parental easy access.

Retro-styled gaming consoles are really nothing new to the market, and replica Atari consoles have been around in various incarnations. For example, the Atari Flashback, released in 2004, was licensed by Atari and included 101 built-in games but didn’t venture to mimic the original’s function. A more accurate replica has been a long time coming for true hobbyists. Designed to look and feel just like the original console (but at 80% of size), the Atari 2600+ is made specifically for those who want to recapture the classic gaming experiences of the '70s and '80s. And that includes those wrist-destroying joysticks and the ability to load cartridges — both vintage and new.

Backward compatibility of the hundreds of cartridges used with the Atari 2600 and 7800 models was especially vital to Atari in the development of the new console. Look for the new console to be priced at a very reasonable $129.

The re-release is a joint venture with PLAION, developer and producer of games and entertainment products. In terms of power, the Atari 2600 Plus is driven by a Rockchip 3128 SoC, a low-power quad-core chip that’s perfect to run hours of vintage games including cartridges that also ran on the 7800 system.

For those of us who tossed out their 2600 units while Reagan was still in his second term, don't fret. The Atari 2600+ launches with one cartridge that houses ten iconic games including "Adventure," "Combat," "Haunted House," "Missile Command," and "Yars' Revenge." (Sorry, "Pitfall!" fans.) 

Marriage of convenience

Acura has officially announced the ZDX, its first electric vehicle. The SUV is expected to be available in early 2024 and is a joint venture with General Motors. But don't expect to see it on showroom floors any time soon, because this marks the first Acura model to be offered exclusively online. After all, when something is behind the velvet rope, car enthusiasts respond. We can thank Tesla, Lucid and Rivian for that. 

With a base price of $60,000, the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive model will have a range of 325 miles. All-wheel drive models are anticipated to have a range of 315 miles. For those seeking a zippier ride, the Type S model will have a range of 288 miles and 500 horsepower. It appears this EV has eaten its Wheaties — it should easily tow up to 3,500 pounds.

"The arrival of the new ZDX is an exciting moment for the Acura brand," said Emile Korkor, assistant vice president for Acura National Sales, in a statement. "It signals our transition to a zero-emissions future and demonstrates our commitment to precision crafted performance in the electrified era."

If the ZDX seems familiar, it should. It shares many design cues and themes with the Precision concept car from last year's Monterey Car Week.  

There's lots riding on this new joint venture. The ZDX uses GM's versatile Ultium battery platform, which can also be found in GMC's Hummer EV and Cadillac's Lyriq SUV. (Fun fact: The ZDX and the Lyric have exactly the same dimensions.) 

With its EV debut, Acura is also taking the infrastructure of battery charging seriously. So much so that in July it announced it would join BMW, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis (which manufactures Dodge, Ram, Alfa Romeo and Jeep) in a new charging network joint venture. The group's goal is to install 30,000 fast-charging stations for EVs in the U.S. and Canada that use both Tesla's North American Charging Standard and the Combined Charging System, with the first stations to open next summer.

Jay Joseph, vice president of Sustainability and Business Development for American Honda, which owns the Acura brand, recently told Popular Science that there needs to be improvements to the modern EV grid. “If you drive around Europe, charging is ample," he said. "Certain corridors are very well supported; it’s effortless. People need for charging to be easy, and that paves the path to adoption.”

Like he suggests, if you build it, they will come. After all, thousand-mile road trips will be much easier if recharging batteries is as easy as ordering Chicken McNuggets.  

Anthony Venutolo, Manager, Global Communications