DARPA looks to play games with a purpose

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WHAT: A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency proposers day to discuss objectives for the Next Generation Social Science (NGS2) program.

WHY: DARPA's NGS2 Program looks to bring the enormous scale of online Internet gaming to bear on social science research. Through the program, the research agency wants to develop new methods and tools that tap the huge pool of participants in massively multiplayer online gaming and massive online open course (MOOCs) platforms to study human social behaviors at a previously unreachable scale.

The program, DARPA officials said, will draw from a wide array of disciplines -- including social sciences such as sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, and psychology, as well as information and computer sciences, physics, biology and math.

Social science research, the agency said, has traditionally been bound to experiments involving only a few dozen participants, usually university student volunteers, or extrapolating smaller study datasets into larger ones.

The reach and depth of huge MMOG and MOOC platforms has changed that tiny dynamic, according to DARPA. Using new tools that can tap those sprawling environments, DARPA believes thousands of people online can be engaged to tap unexplored ranges of topics.

The new applications could take on age-old social science challenges, including identifying primary drivers of social cooperation, instability and resilience with benefits for national security, public health and economics.

DARPA said NGS2 will initially fund researchers for three core social science capabilities: predictive modeling and hypothesis generation, innovative experimental methods and platforms, and interpretation and reproducibility of research results.

Additionally, the agency said the program will draw from publicly available data, as well as from results from other gaming platform research done with user consent.

The Proposers Day will be held on March 22, 2016, in Arlington, Va.

Click here to read the solicitation.

Posted by Mark Rockwell on Mar 18, 2016 at 8:10 AM


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