Cybersecurity

By Ben Bain

Blog archive

Can virtual worlds create better spies?

Previously, an entry in this blog explained that the agency that conducts research for intelligence agencies is interested in learning how  people's performance in a virtual world or game can affect their abilities in real life.

The agency, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), is interested in focused, quantitative research on how gaming and virtual world immersion could boost problem-solving skills, critical thinking, teamwork and persistence, according to a request for information (RFI) from that organization released in March. IARPA does research for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

In the request, IARPA said studies show that immersive environments can affect real world performance, but the agency said much of that previous research has focused on case studies and gross-level effects.

So why are intelligence agencies interested in research on games and avatars?

In an e-mail message response to follow up questions from Federal Computer Week about the possible research, ODNI said if features of virtual environments that contribute to enhanced real-world performance are identified, intelligence agencies may be able to develop environments to improve training or provide support for analysts.

A researcher could alter the fidelity of a virtual environment to determine what is “good enough,” or a researcher might test different story narratives of virtual games to determine if they have a real-world effect, ODNI said.

“Most prior research has looked at gross level, short term effects. We are interested in measuring the effects of methods using [virtual environments] as compared to [non-virtual environments]," ODNI said. "What aspects or features of the virtual environments contribute to the real world effect? Can we measure the persistence of these effects for a week, a month, or a year? These are the sorts of metrics that we are interested in,"

Responses to the RFI are due April 12.

Posted by Ben Bain on Apr 05, 2010 at 7:21 PM


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