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]