US Navy creates game to help solve real-world problems, fight pirates

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The US Navy has announced a new video game: the Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI). Developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the large-scale game is an experiment in generating collective intelligence to solve piracy-related problems. MMOWGLI is launching in just a few weeks (the official timeframe is spring 2011).

If you've always wanted to fight Somali pirates or take down a notorious terrorist leader, this game is for you. You also have to enjoy large games, as this looks to be one of the biggest online games ever created.

ONR plans to launch the new Internet wargame internally on May 16, 2011. It will start by recruiting a community of more than 1,000 players to collaborate on solving real-world problems facing the Navy. More specifically, for three weeks MMOWGLI will recruit online players from across the government to suggest ways of combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The piracy problem is just a means to demonstrate the platform, but MMOWGLI itself can be applied to any scenario. ONR intends to tap a diverse group of players from the ranks of academia, defense, as well as government and nongovernment organizations. In short, MMOWGLI is meant to identify solutions to difficult challenges by leveraging the intellectual capital of a broader community. It is still a pilot project, but it definitely sounds like it has potential.

"MMOWGLI is an online game designed to find and collectively grow breakthrough ideas to some of the Navy's most complex problems--those 21st-century threats that demand new forms of collaboration and truly outlying ideas," Dr. Larry Schuette, ONR's director of Innovation, said in a statement. "We hope MMOWGLI will help us to understand what happens when your insights are combined with the observations and actions of another player. Will that fusion result in a game-changing idea or solution, or will the MMOWGLI platform teach us something about our traditional thought processes?"

MMOWGLI should not be confused with what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is doing. The organization last month asked gamers to test submarine-tracking simulator. Currently, ONR isn't asking gamers at large for help, but it will be soon.

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