Lumos Labs, the creator of “brain training program” Lumosity with $67.5 million in venture funding, has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission for its deceptive advertising. As part of the settlement, the company has to notify all of its customers who signed up for an auto-renewal plan between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014 about the FTC settlement, and give them the chance to cancel their subscriptions. Before making future claims about Lumosity’s potential benefits on brain performance, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco has ordered that Lumos Labs must “possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence.” In the FTC’s complaint, it claimed that Lumos Labs deceived people with “unfounded claims” that the app could help people perform better in school, at work and reduce or improve cognitive impairment. The FTC says Lumos Labs did not have the science to back up its claims. The complaint also alleges that Lumos Labs failed to disclose that some of the consumer testimonials had been solicited through contests that promised prizes like a free iPad and a round-trip flight to San Francisco. “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.” Lumosity’s program has more than 40 games that focus on memory, attention, flexibility, problem solving and processing speed. The programs are available via subscriptions ranging from an $11.95 monthly fee to $299.95 for a lifetime membership. “Neither the action nor the settlement pertains to the rigor of our research or the quality of the products — it is a reflection of marketing language that has been discontinued,” Lumosity told TechCrunch in a statement. “Our focus as a company has not and will not change: We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.” The statement went on to say: “Lumosity has made strong contributions to the scientific community, including our work with the Human Cognition Project initiative. We invest heavily in research and game development to ensure that our products are engaging and provide value to users. The recent peer-reviewed clinical test published in the journal PLOS One is a large, randomized, active-controlled trial of our cognitive training program. The study reported that participants who trained with Lumosity for 10 weeks improved on an aggregate assessment of cognition. Going forward, a key focus of our ongoing research is to build on these studies to better understand how training-driven improvements on tests of cognition translate to performance in participants’ everyday lives.”
News Article | November 11, 2015
The company behind popular "brain game" app Lumosity has a new CEO, and he’s no dummy. Although Steve Berkowitz, the incoming leader of Lumos Labs, is best known for overseeing the growth of the For Dummies book series in the 1990s, he's also experienced in scaling tech companies and steering them toward large exits. Berkowitz will replace Kunal Sarkar, the company’s co-founder and current CEO, who will become Lumos Labs’ new chairman of the board. Berkowitz was one of the major players in the expansion of the For Dummies brand at IDG Books, and subsequently went on to helm Ask Jeeves/Ask.com, Move, and Realtor.com. Move and Realtor.com were both later sold to News Corp, and Berkowitz played a large part in IAC’s acquisition of Ask.com in 2005 for a still-staggering $1.85 billion. In an interview with Fast Company, Berkowitz said his immediate focus will be new products and international opportunities. Currently, the company claims to have more than 70 million members in 180 countries. He added that Lumosity is a "brand that’s built in a new and nascent space which they’re helping to define, and we’ll be focusing on idea of entertaining and education as things that are important." Even though a group of 69 researchers from prestigious universities has said that brain games' claims are exaggerated, the market for cognitive training is booming. Research from MarketsandMarkets predicts the cognitive assessment and training market to grow from $2.4 billion in 2015 to $7.5 billion by 2020.
Snyder P.J.,Brown University |
Kahle-Wrobleski K.,Eli Lilly and Company |
Brannan S.,Takeda Development Center Americas Inc. |
Miller D.S.,Bracket |
And 9 more authors.
Alzheimer's and Dementia | Year: 2014
Several lines of evidence from Alzheimer's disease (AD) research continue to support the notion that the biological changes associated with AD are occurring possibly several decades before an individual will experience the cognitive and functional changes associated with the disease. The National Institute on Aging - Alzheimer's Association revised criteria for AD provided a framework for this new thinking. As a result of this growing understanding, several research efforts have launched or will be launching large secondary prevention trials in AD. These and other efforts have clearly demonstrated a need for better measures of cognitive and functional change in people with the earliest changes associated with AD. Recent draft guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration further elevated the importance of cognitive and functional assessments in early stage clinical trials by proposing that even in the pre-symptomatic stages of the disease, approval will be contingent on demonstrating clinical meaningfulness. The Alzheimer's Association's Research Roundtable addressed these issues at its fall meeting October 28-29, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The focus of the discussion included the need for improved cognitive and functional outcome measures for clinical of participants with preclinical AD and those diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment due to AD. © 2014 The Alzheimer's Association. All rights reserved. Source
News Article | January 15, 2010
I caught up the other day with Jason Jacobs, the hyperkinetic founder and CEO of Boston-based FitnessKeeper, which is best known for its RunKeeper GPS fitness-tracking app for the Apple iPhone. That’s no mean feat, as Jacobs is one of those guys who walks the talk—he’s training to run in the Boston Marathon for the second time (whether he’ll do it in an iPhone costume again, he isn’t saying yet). I wanted to hear more about two recent milestones at FitnessKeeper. The first came last weekend, when FitnessKeeper passed the 1-million-downloads mark with RunKeeper. The second, announced January 11, is that RunKeeper users who happen to own the Wi-Fi-connected BodyScale bathroom scale from Withings (pronounced Why-things) can now track their weight and body-mass index right alongside the online records of their runs at the RunKeeper website. Jacobs says the RunKeeper-Withings integration is just the first step toward realizing what he calls “the initial vision” for FitnessKeeper—a kind of online fitness data empire, with tracking data coming in from numerous Internet-connected devices, all helping users work toward fitness goals. On the downloads front, Jacobs says the combined count of iPhone users who have downloaded the free and $9.99 “pro” versions of RunKeeper passed one million last Saturday, January 9. And very soon—this month, Jacobs says—downloads of the free version will pass one million all on their own. “Those are important numbers because they show the amount of leverage you can get from the iTunes App Store as a platform,” Jacobs says. But an even more significant number, he says, is the count of active users, defined as people who post at least one activity per month to their RunKeeper Web accounts. That number “continues to climb significantly, even through the winter,” which means RunKeeper isn’t one of those apps that people just download and forget. The iPhone experience has been so important for the company that it will soon announce versions of RunKeeper for other smartphone platforms, Jacobs says. Android phones will probably come first. “We expect that the showdown between iPhone and Android this year is going to be epic,” he says. “I don’t think that either can be underestimated. Anybody that emerges as a viable smartphone competitor, we want to be there and be the leaders.” But FitnessKeeper’s Withings announcement has bigger implications, overall, than the million-download milestone. If you happen to be a Twitter follower of Bob Metcalfe, the Boston-based venture capitalist and Ethernet co-inventor, then you are already treated to a daily report from Metcalfe’s own Withings scale. (Today’s update: “My weight: 224.7 lb. 46 lb to go. Goal is 179, as in 1979. http://withings.com.”) Jacobs says the Withings scale can be programmed to send its data to any online destination—including, now, the RunKeeper website, which will track users’ weigh-ins alongside the record of their runs. That’s useful not just because it will help RunKeeper users track their weight over time, says Jacobs, but because the RunKeeper app needs up-to-date weight information in order to accurately calculate the number of calories users burn on their runs. And in the near future, the weight data will have many other uses. “We are going to rolling out, quite soon actually, our first optional premium service,” says Jacobs. “We haven’t said a lot about it yet, but it’s called FitnessReports, and one thing that’s in these reports is powerful charting and analytics around your data. So you can see how your weight data is trending over time, and it can be correlated against other input types, such as weekly mileage or pace, so you can actually gain some insights into how your weight affects your fitness and how your performance affects your weight.” For example, you might be the kind of person who loses weight faster by going on longer, less frequent runs, as opposed to shorter, more frequent ones. FitnessKeeper’s fitness reports would help you suss out that type of trend, Jacobs says. “It’s intelligence that helps you make meaningful changes to your routine,” he says. Which gets at the really big picture for FitnessKeeper. From all outward appearances, the startup might appear to be just another iPhone app development house—but Jacobs says that’s just an accidental result of the company’s early product strategy decisions. “The initial vision was, let’s get the data, no matter what the input is, and build a system to help people achieve specific fitness goals,” says Jacobs. “When the iPhone came along, we said, ‘Wow, this is a really powerful place to start,’ because it enables you to do things that you couldn’t do without these smartphones coming along. But now that we are expanding our reach to other platforms like Android and starting to integrate with other types of devices that give data, like the scale, you can see how we are going to have all kinds of different services wrapped around the data on the Web.” So keep an eye out for more device-integration news from FitnessKeeper.
The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday the company's advertisements deceptively suggested that playing the games a few times a week could boost performance at work, in the classroom and even delay serious conditions like dementia. Under the settlement, Lumos Labs must contact its customers and offer them an easy way to cancel their subscriptions. The San Francisco company frequently promoted its games through national TV and radio stations including CNN, Fox News and National Public Radio. The company also used Google advertising services to drive traffic to its website, the FTC said in a statement. "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, a director in FTC's consumer protection unit. "But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads." Customers pay anywhere from $15, for a monthly subscription, or up to $300 for lifetime access to Lumosity's online and mobile apps. An FTC spokesman said Tuesday's action is the first government settlement with a maker of apps intended to boost brain health. Previous settlements have involved makers of dietary supplements and other products intended to boost mental performance. The government agency, which regulates consumer advertising, plans to refund the $2 million to Lumosity customers. The agency initially obtained a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, but the amount was downsized because of company's inability to pay. Lumosity is one of the most visible services in the burgeoning brain training industry, which has estimated sales of over $1 billion per year, according to trade publications. Under federal law, only products that have been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration can claim to treat or prevent serious diseases or conditions. To date, the FDA has not approved any brain training programs. In 2014, more than 70 prominent neurology and psychology researchers published a consensus statement critical of the brain training industry, citing its "frequently exaggerated" marketing. "The aggressive advertising entices consumers to spend money on products and to take up new behaviors, such as gaming, based on these exaggerated claims," the experts said. While studies have shown that gaming participants can improve their performance on simple tasks, the experts concluded there is no compelling evidence that games "reduce or reverse cognitive decline." Explore further: FTC says AT&T misled customers with unlimited data