The Navy is using a computer game to crowdsource ideas to help make our fighting forces more efficient -- and less costly.
I have been a long-time advocate of the professional and educational benefits of playing computer games. They can be used in a variety of ways, from teaching aids to helping patients with developmental disorders. They can also teach skills, and even focus on areas such as professional development and team building. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that John Breeden, our lab director, can’t yell at me for playing them in the lab when I call it “research.”
The military has used computer games for many useful purposes as well. Who else remembers "America’s Army" from 2008, the massively multiplayer online (MMO) shooter-style game that let you see what it could be like if you joined up? It was an effort to improve military public relations at a time when it was definitely needed. It’s actually still available for play, so you can see for yourself.
Now the Navy is using MMOs as a completely different tool, as the platform for an Internet think tank and brainstorming session. This Pentagon-funded project is called “energy MMOWGLI,” which stands for MMO Wargame Leveraging the Internet. It’s an environment where both experts and lay people can share, and hopefully improve, ideas about energy efficiency and consumption.
Once you’ve registered, you are shown a “news story” film projecting what things might be like in 10 years if something isn’t done about our military’s current energy consumption. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but it does get the point across.
You can then investigate to see what ideas people have come up with, and what others have done to expand on it, counter it, adapt it to current situations, or explore different avenues of investigation based on it. One sample comment: "Use the motion of the ocean to create energy for ships at sea."
The game keeps everything organized, so you can see at a glance the activity a certain idea has gotten. The game masters will also label certain ideas as extra interesting.
This is actually a very clever use of crowdsourcing. Hopefully the military will be translate some of these ideas into less costly operations.
And no, John, I am not wasting time playing computer games. I happen to be saving the world over here!