Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pentagon Wants “Virtual Renditions” of Deployed Personnel to Interact with Their Children

anuary 8th, 2009

“My real daddy died in Iraq, but daddy_lite v3.7.2 lives in my cell phone now. The kind man from the Army also gave mommy a backup disk in case we need to re-install daddy on any of our computers or mobile devices. Mommy cries a lot, but daddy seems happy inside the screen.”

Via: Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research:

Title: Virtual Dialogue Application for Families of Deployed Service Members

Research & Technical Areas: Biomedical, Human Systems

Objective: To develop a highly interactive PC or web-based application to allow family members to verbally interact with “virtual” renditions of deployed Service Members.

Description: The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury recognizes that family outreach and advocacy is pivotal for both the psychological health of the family and the resilience of the Service Member. Deployments put stress on the entire family, especially small children and communication is key. The ability to reach out and communicate with loved ones from areas of conflict is better than at any time in history. Nevertheless, the stresses of deployment might be softened if spouses and especially children could conduct simple conversations with their loved ones in immediate times of stress or prolonged absence. Historically, families have derived comfort and support from photographs or mementos, but current technology SHOULD allow for more personal interactive messages of support. Over 80% of American children between the ages of three and five regularly use computers, and 83% of families have a computer in their home.So, computer-based applications would resonate with children and capture their interest and imagination. The challenge is to design an application that would would allow a child to receive comfort from being able to have simple, virtual conversations with a parent who is not aivailable “in-person”. 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. Voice-recognition and voice-interaction are required. The User Interface is a critical component for this program. Application must be user friendly and application must be easy to install and maintain. Verbal interactions should be as normal as current technology will allow. Proven track record for creating similar types of applications is desired, but not required. Development plans should include the use of trained psychological health and family advocacy experts with experience providing services to military populations. Project MUST include discussion of how personal information would be collected, recorded, and rendered as well as address issues about information content and complexity of proposed simulation application. If using a web-based application, security and maintenance issues must be addressed. Application must run on typical family-owned computer systems.

PHASE I: Work with DoD Subject Matter Experts to define exact needs and scope of the application. Provide for the development of a complete concept plan, concept design for the overall system and a simple working proof-of-concept demonstration. In this concept plan, address the following items with respect to the Phase II requirements: 1. Develop metrics to determine user acceptance, usability, and content requirements. 2. Describe, illustrate, and storyboard a complete scenario with the help of Subject Matter Experts. 3. Outline technology limitations and risks, including minimum system requirements. 4. Identify development tools for producing the simulation. 5. Devise an implementation and plan for a detailed usability study 6. Develop a basic proof-of-concept demonstration of technology

PHASE II: 1. Finalize application design based on Phase I results 2. Build, refine, and demonstrate the prototype system. 3. Perform user acceptance and usability study 4. Develop strategy for customizing simulation for military families.

Phase III: DUAL USE COMMERCIALIZATION: This technology would be useful for providing support for civilian families and could be easily expanded to provide highly-interactive training and “lessons-learned” from experts in the field.

Research Credit: ltcolonelnemo

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