Tag: darpa

Lessons on ARGs and Teamwork Through the Lens of Daedalus

Daedalus is an artificial intelligence built to solve humanity’s greatest problems. And over the next few days, it will be recruiting teams of 5-7 players to participate in a week-long series of puzzles that play out across Daedalus’ neural network, to “complete Daedalus’ programming”. While many of these tasks will take place on the game’s digital interface, some puzzles will cross over into the real world, requiring teams to have at least two players in the Boston area.

This week-long experience is a collaboration between Extra Ludic and Northeastern University that is looking to leverage alternate reality games to study team performance and adaptability, with a particular focus on “individual differences and their effects on adaptability and performance within teams.” Using survey and questionnaire data collected at the midpoint and end of the game, the team hopes to leverage ARG and digital escape room environments to study how teams work together. To provide an incentive for teams to participate, all teams who complete the game and the corresponding surveys will receive a gift certificate, with an additional prize for the team who completes the game in the fastest time.

This is not the first time alternate reality games have been used for research purposes. Indiana University’s Skeleton Chase game presented members of the school’s Foundations of Fitness and Wellness program with a sprawling game that led students across campus, confirming that players presented with a compelling experience could be encouraged to increase the amount they walk every day. Researchers noted that students reporting the highest weekly step counts were the teams that bonded well, forming a cohesive unit that worked together towards a common goal, serving as an early indicator for the success of games like Ingress and Pokemon Go.

The project is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is no stranger to using competitions to test out models for group dynamics. In 2009, they ran the DARPA Network Challenge as a competition to locate ten red balloons located across the country. Player data for Daedalus will remain anonymous, with survey and other data collected through the project anonymized and associated with a unique identifier for use in the research.

It will be interesting to see what emerges from Daedalus from the research standpoint. It will also be a novel experience for participants to get paid to play an alternate reality game – and it’s not too late to make a play for the grand reward. The team is still in the process of recruiting their third cohort for the experience. Registration is limited to participants who are US Citizens or Permanent Residents who are 18 years or older, fluent in English, and have access to a cellphone. However, you don’t have to live in Boston or assemble the full team yourself to participate: the game’s sign-up form implies that researchers may help form teams for prospective players who haven’t assembled a full team.

As appealing as the research element of Deadalus sounds, the most alluring element in the teaser trailer is what almost sounds like a warning from the game’s artificial intelligence: “it sounds simple, but in this puzzle not everything is what it appears to be. So you must be clever, and work together.” To find out what that means, head over to the game’s sign-up page to get started – but don’t take too long, as Daedalus will be wrapping up at the end of September.

Thanks to Room Escape Artist for directing this game to our attention.

DARPA Network Challenge: Seeing Red?

darpa_challengeIf you see an 8-foot wide red weather balloon floating on the horizon during your commute tomorrow, don’t worry. You haven’t been transported into a Nena music video shoot. As we previously reported, DARPA will be deploying ten weather balloons across the United States as part of its Network Challenge, with $40,000 at stake.

A number of organizations have expressed an interest in putting up fake balloons tomorrow. So if you see a red balloon, here are a few tips to make sure you’ve identified a verified balloon. First, approach the balloon, making note of its number: authentic DARPA balloons will be accompanied by DARPA officials carrying appropriate credentials. Take photographs of the balloon, DARPA official, and the credentials if you can manage it: by providing proof of authenticity, your information is more likely to be trustworthy. Plus, if your camera includes GPS coordinates in its metadata, you can provide an additional form of locative verification if the team needs to double-check the coordinates.

If you have a GPS device, copy down the coordinates. Otherwise, write down the nearest cross streets and then follow the simple instructions at Lifehacker to display GPS coordinates using Google Maps. Coordinates within a mile of the balloon’s location will be accepted, so you don’t need to be exact, just close. Now, you’ll probably need to convert the coordinates into degree-minute-second (DD-MM-SS) format, which can be accomplished using this java applet.

Finally, send your information to some of the many groups engaged in the hunt. As DARPA Director Regina Dugan explained at UCLA’s celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Internet, this task is much simpler today than it would have been in 1969. But that doesn’t make it easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Happy hunting to all the teams involved in the challenge.

DARPA Network Challenge: Celebrating 40 Years of Internet

darpa_challengeOn October 29, 1969 at 10:30PM, UCLA student Charley Kline sent the letters “LO” from UCLA to the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park using the ARPANET. Forty years later, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is celebrating the birth of the Internet with a contest that tests its capabilities to bring people together. At 10AM EST on December 5, ten moored red weather balloons will be released across the continental United States for six hours: the first person to submit the latitudes and longitudes of all ten balloons in degree-minute-second (DDD-MM-SS) format will win $40,000. Balloons will be accompanied by DARPA representatives at readily accessible locations visible from nearby roadways.

The DARPA Network Challenge opens for registration on December 1, and will accept submissions until December 14. The Secretary of Defense is authorized to award prizes under 10 U.S.C. § 2374a for “outstanding achievements in basic, advanced, and applied research, technology development, and prototype development that have the potential for application to the performance of the military missions of the Department of Defense.” To achieve this end, DARPA notes in its contest rules that it “may contact individuals to discuss the means and methods used in solving the challenge.”

The Rules state that DARPA will only issue a single check to the winning individual registered on the event website. Thus, successful entrants will have to find an optimal incentive structure to receive timely and accurate data from the crowd. Even assuming the balloons will be visible from Interstate highways, combing almost 47,000 miles of roadways in six hours will be a daunting task. Verifying that data will be equally difficult, especially if people refuse to share their successes and failures or post falsified sightings.

Games like Vanishing Point and Perplex City have previously tackled the challenge of crowd-sourcing tasks that involve a financial reward to a single individual. Therefore, it’s somewhat fitting that Perplex City developer Adrian Hon has provided an in-depth analysis of the challenges this contest’s winner must overcome. Adrian notes that he is planning on running a similar challenge in London with Philip Trippenbach before Christmas.

Click Here to visit DARPA’s Network Challenge contest page.
Click Here for a partial list of groups participating in the DARPA Challenge.