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EduSpot: Play. Learn. Fight Global Health Diseases with Videogames.

Madrid, Spain
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Humans spend 3 billion hours a week playing videogames. There are more than 2 million deaths per year due to global health diseases. Games are the best way to learn: EduSpot uses videogames with real medical images to learn about and fight global health diseases.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if malaria could be diagnosed with help of kids playing a video game while learning about global health problems and science?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The new generation of humans raised in the digital era is not aware of the huge problem of treatable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis causing 2 million deaths mainly in low-income countries. The same humans that spend millions of hours playing videogames of dubious quality and poor social and learning value. We need to find a way to leverage that potential not only to understand the problem, but also to act to solve it.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Videogames that make players learn about global health, but also about how to help to solve the image diagnosis problem- a cornerstone towards treatment and eradication. Videogames that inspire new careers and vocations with a "learning by doing" approach. Videogames that instead of shooting aliens, shoot malaria parasites in real digitized blood samples. And use innovations to digitize images with mobile-phone-microscopy (eg. with Lego pieces), to upload medical images to the videogame and analyze them by many players. Artificial intelligence is used to combine the clicks from different people to obtain a single result useful for the diagnosis. Players of all ages will learn and become part of a global task force of disease hunters
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Year 2014: We organize an activity at a school in Madrid. We start telling kids about global diseases and related basic science and social concepts. Afterwards, they take part in a game contest. Maria, the winner, turns out to be the worst student at class. Have we boosted her self-esteem and sparked an interest in science or technology leading to a new vocation? Year 2024: In a Maputo clinic, as in most other clinics worldwide, they take digitazed images of patient samples with a microscope-mobile phone. Then they are uploaded with the SpotLab app. Meanwhile, kids are playing SpotLab games. At her office, Maria, a volunteer doctor from Madrid, checks all the notifications in her smartphone telling her which patients she needs to visit.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In April 2012, we launched MalariaSpot as a proof-of-concept. Players from more than 100 countries analyzed over 20,000 images, generating a database of one million clicks tagging parasites on the malaria screening images. Data analysis revealed that combining results from 13 players resulted in a perfect parasite count as precise as the one from a microscopist. In the last 2 years, more than 30000 around the world have learnt how a blood sample with malaria parasites look like under the microscope. Malaria Hunter has been a top 50 educational game in several countries. We have organized activities at schools and created a strong collaborators network, contributing to global health awareness through media appearances.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

EduSpot is based in the hypothesis we can learn by playing and doing. Every human have a fantastic visual system more powerful than any computer. We can leverage it to contribute to global health diagnosis, but also to raise awareness and create new vocations in the generation of digital natives. We expect to reach kids all over the world trough virtual platforms in dozens of languages - including emerging ones as Swahili. Everywhere we could understand medical images and benefit from collective analysis.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

After an initial phase or R&D funded by grants, we will transition to a social enterprise with a hybrid business model coming from both the videogames sector - eg. pay for extras in the game or app - and from the health sector -eg. as pay per diagnosis. On the other side we expect to provide free diagnosis and educational activities.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our vision is that 5% of the videogames market is devoted medical image analysis in 5 years. For that purpose we will open source our development to help other teams start similar projects and create the market. Today, there are few fantastic learning games projects, such as PHYLO, Eyewire or BioGames. There are also citizen science initiatives such as Zooniverse. But we need more. And we'd love to see how the seeds planted trough education with games grow in the future and add value to our society.

Founding Story

We started with the crazy idea of mixing video-games and malaria diagnosis. It worked much better than anyone expected with Now we think that the idea can have a bigger impact: Is not just as, many people around the world should start similar projects. We believe games is the best way to raise awareness about global health problems. And the best way to involve the new generation in the solution.


We have an international team - Spain, US, Chile, Mozambique, ... - comprised of specialists in: - Health communication and education - Videogames developer - Medical image processing - Medical doctors - Social innovation design and entrepreneurship - Science and technology education We also count on a fantastic community of on-line volunteers that help us with many tasks of the project.
About You
MalariaSpot - Technical University of Madrid
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

MalariaSpot - Technical University of Madrid

How long has your organization been operating?

Please select

Organization Country

, Madrid

Country where this project is creating social impact
What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Foundations, National government.


Miguel Luengo-Oroz, founder of the project, is an Ashoka Fellow since 2013. The project was awarded by MIT and Madrid with the IDEA2 award from MVISION to foster biomedical technology innovation. In March 2013, our project was a finalist in the Next Century Innovators Awards from the Rockefeller Foundation for innovations and breakthroughs that aim to solve entrenched social problems and foster lasting change in the systems that affect vulnerable people.

Primary Target Age Group

6 - 12, 13 - 17, 18 - 35, 35+.

Your role in Education


Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Public (tuition-free), Private (tuition-based), Home-School, Other.

Intervention Focus

Extracurricular, Professional Development, Community, Online Learning, Products or Services, other.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Putting Children in Charge: Giving children a voice and cultivating agency via experiential learning, project-based learning, and civic engagement.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Lack of structures to facilitate meaningful community ownership in learning process: It is challenging to ensure parents and the broader community are involved as full co-owners in the learning process.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

Players will learn about the of diagnosing infectious diseases and basic concepts about microscopy, parasitology and global diseases.
- Skills:
Players will improve their pattern recognition skills.
- Values:
Players will be aware of the huge human impact of global diseases and the inequalities in in the distribution of health and health care.
Players will be aware of the huge potential of technology and science to solve real life problems.
Players will feel empowered getting involved in actively participating in contributing to solve real world problems.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

We are involved with several beneficiaries:

- Students & Teachers: implementing activities in schools and preparing educational toolkits.
- Patients & MDs: implementing the gamification of the diagnostic process.
- Community: exchanging resources and ideas online.
- Players! Anyone that plays one minute learns about malaria and how a blood sample looks under the microscope. So far more than 30 000 people in more than 100 countries have played and learnt.

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

We are living a data revolution. Mobile phone penetration is unstoppable and is democratizing the access to the information and opening opportunities in every corner of the planet. Artificial intelligence and augmented reality will change the way we interact with the world. Kids will be the main beneficiaries of this revolution. They are digital natives. Videogames are being designed to help people to (re)learn all types of skills, empowering a digital economy. Society is ready to accept that games are not the problem, but the solution.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Neuroscience research provides evidence that playing is not a waste of time, but a natural way of learning, giving skills and increasing players self-esteem. What if a percentage of this time was spent playing videogames that could change the world? We believe it could bring about a revolution in education. But also in health and other domains. Playing, learning and doing are all part of a future feedback loop that will contribute to the well-being of digital natives at a global scale. We can’t waste this opportunity.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

In a R&D focused initial phase, our funding comes from foundations’ donations 50%, research grants 40% and pro-bono in-kind support 10%. The future plan targets a sustainable mixed model combining pay-per-diagnosis and videogames strategies- with a strong social component in the valuation metrics

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

We envision a world where people play, learn and diagnose. Our social enterprise business model uses a metric that prioritizes access to diagnostics where is more needed. Sustainability based on a dual model coming from health (pay-per-diagnosis) and videogames. Stakeholders benefit from the win-win of merging these fields and the most vulnerable beneficiaries -patients and children learning- not pay. We believe others will follow our lead.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

We will use it to develop a new mobile version of a videogame for diagnosis of malaria and tuberculosis to be launched during one week of activities in several high schools. These activities will create a blueprint for educative modules that will be then shared and replicated via our online platform

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

This is a global multidisciplinary endeavour based on working together with partners in several fields: medicine (Hospital San Carlos (Spain) and Manhiça Health Research Centre (Mozambique)), technology (MIT (USA)), social innovation (Socialab (Chile)), videogame design (Nebutek (Spain) and AppsForTime (USA)) and communication and education (HS teachers)

We also count on a fantastic community of online volunteers involved in many project tasks.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

We have exchanged very valuable feedback with other pacesetters and we are exploring how we could find synergies. There are 3 projects which seem specially interesting as potential collaborators: "Institute of Play", "Make it Epic!" and "Professor S."

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

Learning through games and crowd-diagnostics have been key in the revolution to achieve universal health coverage for all the citizens of the world. Diagnosis has been democratized: massive and rare diseases are collectively diagnosed in real time with the help of videogames. Digital professionals playing everyday acquire new skills adapted to the society needs. 10% of videogames and augmented reality market is devoted to real health applications

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

-People learning about diagnosis and global health playing a videogame. So far >30000 people from +100 countries. We target millions worldwide!
-Blood samples analyzed: 5.000 for training so far. We target thousands of real time analysis.

In the long run:
-Create a digital task force with initiatives expanding the concept to other diseases and new games (x10 by 2016).
-Generate new scientific vocations and create new digital jobs (x1000 by 2016)

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?

Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

Number of Volunteers:

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Other (please specify)
AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.


Carla Zeltzer's picture

Muito bom ver outro projeto de games! Achamos um excelente ideia para engajar crianças e adolescentes em busca
do aprendizado.

Miguel Luengo-Oroz's picture

Hola Carla,

Muchas gracias por tu feedback! :)