Military kids to be issued virtual stand-ins while parents on deployment

Paul Raven @ 10-01-2009

soldier and babyOK, file under “hearts in the right place, brains possibly not”: the US military has noted that having parents away from their kids a long time on active duty (and hence not exactly able to call home regularly) probably isn’t so great for the kids’ well-being. [image by SoldiersMediaCenter]

Their potential solution? Virtual parental avatars powered by chatbots. Here’s a snippet from the DoD’s solicitation for proposals:

“The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics,” the solicitation says. “For instance, a child may get a response from saying, ‘I love you,’ or ‘I miss you,’ or ‘Good night mommy/daddy.’ This is a technologically challenging application because it relies on the ability to have convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.”

So many potential responses, so little time… I guess I’m mostly surprised that it was thought up as a request from the DoD rather than at a DARPA coffee-break bull session.

Also – how many old sf stories does this sound like? I’m sure I remember a PKD short featuring something very similar. [via Gizmodo; tip-off from the Whitechapel Massive]

Be Sociable, Share!

3 Responses to “Military kids to be issued virtual stand-ins while parents on deployment”

  1. Robert Koslover says:

    Both DARPA and DoD have for many, many years used science fiction as inspiration for their technology R&D programs. The scientists and engineers who work for DARPA and the DoD are very much like other scientists and engineers, many of whom have a strong appreciation for science fiction. And, except for ill-advised requests for proposal for a time machine, human teleporter, or warp-drive (yes, those do show up now and then), I think the influence of SF on DoD and DARPA has been generally quite positive.

  2. Tom Marcinko says:

    Does remind me a bit of a circa-1965 Silverberg story. Can’t remember the name offhand. It was about a refugee on a spaceship getting a guilt-trip from the simulations of the people he left behind.

    Also the episode of The Simpsons where Marge builds a model of Homer while he’s touring the world with his barbershop quartet, and the kids scream when the head falls off.

  3. Dagonweb says:

    Most funacious jokes I heard this week – return of the living dad – concolation necromancy – tamagotchi parents