DARPA wants gamers to design medical training software

The Defense Department’s research and development organization wants to use video games to teach medical first responders. By reaching out to game designers, the government wants to apply the interactive techniques found in computer games to create an educational application that can be used on mobile devices.

Traditional computer-based simulations focus on training specific skills and techniques as a part of a larger, usually classroom-based, instructional program. But with game-based graphics and techniques, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to develop a system combining skills training with broad educational applications.

For example, instead of merely teaching where to apply a tourniquet, the computer-based system would also reinforce the lesson with demonstrations and discussions of the circulatory system. This allows students to learn why wounds in slightly different areas of the body respond differently, and why and when to apply pressure under certain conditions.

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“We are not seeking standard computer-based learning systems, but game-based interactive systems that are engaging and challenging to the user,” stated the agency’s request for proposals. DARPA wants design and development proposals to meet professional game standards.

The proposed game concepts must be “compelling, innovative, and designed to motivate users for continued interactions. Innovative approaches for visualization and interaction with these different types of information are required,” the document said.

By combining skills training with an understanding of biology and physiology, DARPA expects students to be more well-rounded and able to react to unusual situations. The application must also be flexible enough to be used in both medical training and in civilian science classes, DARPA officials said.

DARPA’s other goal is to create a game-based application for smart phones and tablets to teach first responders through “intelligent tutoring systems.” These software-based routines would not only teach basic skills, but also answer essential questions about why students should or should not have responded the way they did. Using the application, students should learn both basic skills and the basic principles of human physiology, DARPA officials said.

Another requirement is for the system’s underlying architecture to be accessible to users, allowing them to both analyze and optimize the software. 

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