Airport Scanner is one of those weird games that you’d never have thought to become so popular. But the title reached No. 1 in Apple’s App Store in 2012 and has been downloaded more than 7 million times. Besides being oddly fun, Airport Scanner’s usage data is helping the Transportation Security Administration figure out why some security officers are better at X-raying baggage than others.
Airport Scanner is the third game that San Francisco-based Pocket Gems is releasing under its new third-party publishing program. The Kedlin Company created the game in Bellevue, Wash.
Cast as a TSA baggage screener, you’ll have to identify weapons and other illegal items (like liquid containers that are over 3.4 ounces) in passengers’ luggage. One of my kids is addicted to this game, which involves looking at X-ray images and spotting the contraband. Looking over my kid’s shoulder, I have wondered what could possibly be fun about Airport Scanner.
Researchers are using the game to power a Duke University study aimed at improving real-world luggage screening.
“Airport Scanner has been wildly popular on iOS devices, and we’re delighted to bring the game to Android users worldwide,” said Jameel Khalfan, who oversees publishing at Pocket Gems.
“It’s such a great game that we simply couldn’t let just iOS users have all of the fun,” said Ben Sharpe, the chief executive of The Kedlin Company. “Pocket Gems has a successful track record of creating games that people love, and we value their expertise and appreciate their unique approach to publishing. They made it possible for us to bring Airport Scanner to the Android platform; without them, we’re not sure it would’ve happened.”
Kedlin, which was founded in 2008, is working with professor Stephen Mitroff of Duke University’s Visual Cognition Laboratory to give anonymous gameplay data that will answer questions about real-world baggage screening that can’t be easily tested in the lab. With TSA funding, Mitroff is trying to figure out why one person is better at visual searching than someone else. The goal is to improve airport security.
“High accuracy during visual searches is critical for professionals like TSA officers and radiologists, as any missed target can have life-or-death consequences,” said Mitroff. “It’s vital to understand how people learn these skills best and what factors lead to accurate performance, and the data collected from Airport Scanner enable my team to assess and learn from hundreds of thousands of individuals on accuracy, response time, false alarms, the ability to avoid distraction, the ability to multitask, and more.”
Pocket Gems was founded in 2009 and has launched 25 games that have been downloaded more than 100 million times.