Learning could be fun and games at TSA

Federal Business Opportunities notice

The Transportation Security Administration hopes to use video games to train its 40,000 officers who check luggage and cargo for dangerous items.

TSA solicited for a six-month, single-source contract July 27 on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site to create a game that would help its screeners identify guns or knives through X-ray machines.

Images of the weapons and explosives would be taken from a database of real examples that the agency would update. Results would be automatically documented.

The agency also hopes that video game training would help speed up and add a degree of fun to the training. Screeners process as many as 250 images in a half-hour work shift, a task that the agency described as requiring “a high degree of vigilance and accuracy.”

“By design, this game will be extremely enjoyable and guarantee that players produce the correct and useful output,” TSA stated in its work statement.

Games with a purpose, as TSA calls them, are video games that teach or train. The Defense Department and first responder agencies use them often. TSA decided to solicit for serious games because of the ESP Game, an image identification game that attaches labels to images to make image search engines more accurate.

The agency also wants to look into image search engine technology in hopes of creating an algorithm to automatically detect contraband and dangerous items. That algorithm could be used to develop detection software as a possible supplement to screeners.

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