The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is utilizing video games for serious research.
The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – best known for its shape-shifting robots and flying cars – is turning to video games and the gamer community to help solve a pressing health problem among military personnel.
DARPA is using Foldit for research
DARPA has asked 250,000 players of the online game Foldit to identify effective treatments for sepsis, an overwhelming and often deadly infection of the bloodstream that affects thousands of service members ever year. Foldit challenges gamers worldwide to fold virtual protein molecules into different formations to obtain the highest-scoring, or lowest-energy, models. DARPA specifically asks gamers to craft proteins that can bind to, and potentially help remove, pathogens in the blood that are linked to sepsis. While the challenge may seem daunting, Foldit users are not new to solving complex scientific problems. Earlier this year, gamers remodeled an important reaction in organic synthesis in three weeks – a solution that had evaded scientists for years.
DARPA is also planning to engage the video game community in a program designed to find and fix software bugs that threaten U.S. weapons and defense systems. The program, called Crowd Sourced Formal Verification, seeks to turn dull bug-hunting tasks into fun problem-solving games that attract swarms of online players. DARPA envisions creating hundreds of thousands of games, each tailored around common software issues, to test and strengthen military software. Soon, anyone with an Internet connection may hunt potentially dangerous software bugs – and end up saving American lives.