U.S. military wants interactive virtual soldiers for the home front

spookyKnow how to make a virtual human avatar that could convincingly interact with a family member? If so, the U.S. Department of Defense wants to talk to you. Its Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is seeking proposals for a Virtual Dialogue Application for Families of Deployed Service Members.

We are looking for innovative applications that explore and harness the power of advanced interactive multimedia computer technologies to produce compelling interactive dialogue between a Service member and their families via a pc- or web-based application using video footage or high-resolution 3-D rendering. The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. 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. We are seeking development of a tool which can be used to help families (especially, children) cope with deployments by providing a means to have simple verbal interactions with loved ones for re-assurance, support, affection, and generic discussion when phone and internet conversations are not possible. The application should incorporate an AI that allows for flexibility in language comprehension to give the illusion of a natural (but simple) interaction. The current solicitation is not aiming to build entertainment, but a highly accurate and advanced simulation platform.

Slate.com columnist William Saletan seems to like the idea, though he does concede that “Critics call the proposal “creepy” and “dystopian.”

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