When gamers go to war


Mar 20

Do you ever feel that playing video games is good training for the military? Well, it is!

The University of Buffalo has been selected by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to create a real-time strategy game. 

Students will play the game, making real-time tactical and strategic decisions, building up their forces, outwitting their opponents and generally exercising their thumbs; all while their thoughts and eye-movements are being monitored and recorded.


According to the university’s own press release on this, “The team will use the data to create artificial intelligence algorithms that guide the behaviour of autonomous air and ground robots.”

Swarms of robots!Souma Chowdhury, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, explains: “The idea is to eventually scale up to 250 aerial and ground robots, working in highly complex situations. For example, there may be a sudden loss of visibility due to smoke during an emergency. The robots need to be able to effectively communicate and adapt to challenges like that.”

So-called ‘swarm intelligence’ is something AI and Machine Learning researchers have been interested in for some time, the aim being to create simple drones which can work together, like flocks of birds or swarms of bees work together.

Now, the idea of elite video game players finding themselves fighting real wars might seem strangely familiar. After all, the 1984 movie, The Last Starfighter (the first film to have all-CGI special effects) tells the story of a gamer who discovers that his favourite video game ( a sort-of upscale Space Invaders) is actually a recruitment test for a real alien war out in space.

More recently, Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One, has taken the same idea (suitably credited) for his novel Armada.

So, it seems that science fiction continues to become science fact. Let’s just hope that, once these robots are released, it isn’t game over for the rest of us.

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