There’s a serious amount of dross in the ‘Play Store’, but there are some real gems in there too. My plan is to offer some thoughts about Apps You Might Enjoy; this is the second in that series, following on from my earlier post about Morse Mania: this one is about the brain trainer from Elevate Labs.
Elevate – Brain training personalised for you
- Cost: Free* / regular subscription / lifetime subscription 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
- Availability: Android and iOS
- Storage space: 284 Mb 🌠🌠🌠🌠
- User interface design: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
- Advert intrusiveness: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
- Music: None (but it doesn’t need any)
- Audio: Essential for a couple of the games
A boss of mine some years ago (nice chap) was adamant that he had reached a stage in his life in which ongoing decline in his mental faculties was inevitable. “As everyone knows,” he preached at me, “the brain reaches a peak in your mid-twenties, and then you start to lose brain cells — and they never regrow.” I didn’t believe a word of it at the time; I was convinced that if he was experiencing a drop-off in his mental abilities, he was simply suffering from a severe case of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Recent advances in neuroscience have borne out my belief. Common sense, ‘what everyone knows,’ has failed again: brain cells can regrow. The brain can be thought of as a muscle: it benefits from exercise.Seeing the real world, April 2012§
My email records tell me that in 2011 I signed up for (the free version of) a brain training program called ‘Lumosity‘ (there’s an app for that too; but, be warned, it’s huge — 500Mb!). I found Lumosity (on the PC) engaging for a while, but its appeal soon waned; I couldn’t maintain the daily practice I had originally set out to do to give my brain a proper workout. I also found the incessant spam trying to persuade me to purchase the ‘premium’ offering intensely irritating. And so, I kicked Lumosity into touch.
In 2015, an effectiveness study carried out by an independent analyst (a sociology professor) showed that users of the Elevate app improved their performance on tests of grammar, writing, listening, and maths by 69% compared with non-users, and that regular use of the app resulted in greater benefits.
I only found out about that study today, when I was creating this post; I was blissfully unaware of it when, in February last year, I began to use a dumbphone for the first time. This act naturally led to me searching for apps to install on it, and, equally naturally, one of the terms I searched for was ‘brain training’. I found Elevate.
I’ve had no difficulty in maintaining a regular workout. Elevate tells me that my current ‘streak’ (unbroken tally of sessions) is 156 days; the only reason that’s not longer is because I missed a couple of days by thinking I’d actually done them, but not checking!
I’m hard pressed to think of any criticism at all of this fine app. After considerable head-scratching, I finally came up with the following:
- In the game ‘Commas’, one has to tap on spaces between words to either remove commas (in the first part of the game) or add them (in the second part). Taps are sometimes not recognised at all, resulting in the need to tap multiple times (using up valuable time); and sometimes a ‘tap’ will be allocated to a space I could swear I hadn’t tapped on. (I accept that this may possibly be due to flaws in the surface of my handset rather than a problem with the app.)
- In the game ‘Precision’, the objective is to identify speaking errors (it’s one of just two games that requires audio to play). It features a very small selection of audio clips. After just a few plays, the game becomes more of a memory test. (Admittedly, audio data is bulky, so including more clips would increase the app’s storage footprint.)
- The app limits you to a maximum of three plays of each game per day. There’s a minor bug relating to this: upon completing this maximum for a game, the list is supposed to show an exclamation mark to indicate this — but that helpful sigil sometimes doesn’t appear.
With reference to that third point, the support team — who, in my experience, are very responsive — have confirmed that this is only a problem in the Android version. (Having said that, they said that they were working on a fix for it… no sign of that yet, and I reported the fault three months ago.)
You can find out more for yourself on the Elevate website. So, without further ado, here’s a short video clip I’ve made to demonstrate Elevate’s gameplay. I hope you find it informative!
* A caveat: When I installed the app, a year ago, it asked me for my credit card — and then I had trouble cancelling the recurring payment subscription that it automatically initiated (which turned out to be something to do with Google Pay being confused between a gmail.com address and a googlemail.com one — though I had a devil of a job getting sense out of Google Pay about that; they insisted at first that there was no difference). Elevate support assured me that during the installation process it should be possible to “hit the X” to opt out of providing a credit card, and thus use the free version of the app; but I can’t check that… Impressed by the app (it’s streets ahead of Lumosity) I succumbed to their offer of a lifetime sub (for £60, which was a big discount on the original price quoted — if memory serves, that was £150) — and I have to say that I haven’t regretted the investment.
§ Yep, you spotted it, I’m quoting me ;)