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DARPA's 'Social Puppet' 109

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-your-parent-hand-puppets dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Videogame creators are heavily using software to animate objects or characters without reprogramming them between two scenes. Now, game designers from the University of Southern California (USC) have developed 'Social Puppet,' a computer engine to 'help soldiers learn unfamiliar languages by interacting with animated characters.' For this project, financed by DARPA, the researchers have used their expertise in previous videogames used by the armed forces, such as 'Tactical Iraqi.' But previous games were focused on teaching language and customs while Social Puppet is giving on-screen characters human non-verbal communication behaviors."
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DARPA's 'Social Puppet'

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Finally a training tool to understand people who are piss drunk.
  • by PornMaster (749461) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:46PM (#14752573) Homepage
    Finally, a real use for clippy!

    "I noticed that you're having some problems with Farsi."
  • by jonastullus (530101) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:46PM (#14752575) Homepage
    great, now soldiers will learn crowd control and interacting with other cultures in the isolation of a computer.

    i don't want to be too cynical, and i'm sure this is an interesting approach, but i still would prefer soldiers to get this kind of cultural briefing in a less synthetical environment. like spending a few days with people from the target culture, or even better, spending a few days in a country where such a culture persists.

    verbal and non-verbal communication when controlling a (possibly violent) situation is hard enough with people understanding each others signals. when cultures clash that haven't met before (for the participants) this can be aggravated to utmost misunderstandings.

    at least, this kind of thing is given some thought, instead of sending people around the world (who've never gotten out of their hometown before) without prior cultural briefings.
    • still would prefer soldiers to get this kind of cultural briefing in a less synthetical environment

      Especilly since software is usually either pathetically easy to manipulate or totally impossible to deal with. It doesn't have enough intelligence to act like a real human being.

      It is hard to see how this software can help anybody interact with any real person.

    • by StikyPad (445176) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @10:19PM (#14752683) Homepage
      Great, now people will learn about:
      • fire without burning themselves
      • gills without growning them.
      • quantum theory without actually looking at atoms.
      • distant galaxies without actually going there.
      • flying planes without ever getting in one.
      • sex without having it.
      • foreign languages without leaving home.


      Blah blah blah.. Simulations are always used when the subject matter is too dangerous, too expensive, or otherwise impractical for hands-on learning. You don't jump into a firefight to learn how to shoot. Describing and/or simulating those events is pretty much the same way we've been teaching for thousands of years. If you're thinking the process goes like this:

      Drill Sergeant: "Ok recruit, sit down at that terminal and follow the instructions on screen."
      [30 minutes later]
      Johnny: "Ok, all done."
      Drill Sergeant: "All done WHAT?"
      Johnny: "All done, SIR!"
      Drill Sergeant: "That's right! Now get on that plane and get your ass on the battlefield. You're a soldier now!"

      You're sorely mistaken.

      (He'd have to do way more pushups).
      • You don't jump into a firefight to learn how to shoot.

        Someone's never played Counter-strike, obviously. Perfect combat sim - going with a bunch of people who can't shoot against a bunch of other people who can't shoot, half of whom are twelve. Honestly, if you took a flashbang in real combat, wouldn't you just let loose and hope to take them out before they can snipe you? The only difference is that you can't accuse your killer of hacking.

    • The key here is the "non-verbal communication" which you wouldn'y normally get without actually being in the target environment.

      Sounds like a valuable tool for educating the young soldiers whom I guess haven't had much contact with other cultures other than at the checkout of a Kwik-E Mart.
    • The point of this is to help people going to those countrties make fewer cultural faux pas, not as a replacement for human interaction. I think it's a great idea. I think I would have learned French faster with a system like this.
    • or even better, spending a few days in a country where such a culture persists.

      "OK guys, things have gotten really bad in Cameroon. The Muslim minority has risen up and violently siezed control of the country. They are terrorizing the Christian natives and executing anyone who looks even remotly European or American. An ally is in trouble and the President wants this stopped."

      "Sir, are we leaving immediately?"

      "No, the operation starts in a few weeks. Since we'll be in deep into the country, we'll need
  • by RiotXIX (230569) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @09:59PM (#14752622) Journal
    The screen shots have pictures of soldiers being greeted by men in villas and asking for food in local stores. Are the scenarios where the iraqis tell the soldiers to get bent? It sounds like software that would better be suited to showing kids how to handle an exhange trip to Europe.

    As cool as it sounds, I doubt it has more use than a phrase book, other than it's a bit easier for people who can't be bothered to learn. At least they can take the book to a warzone (or do all soldiers have a laptop?). Nice tech. demo though.
    • There are. On the video page, you can see examples of bad and "very bad" outcomes.

      In the bad one, I think the Iraqi misunderstands, and gives you directions to go somewhere, and then calls you a son of a bitch for not saying thank you when you leave, and in the very bad one, he accuses you of being CIA.

      It's pretty funny actually.
    • Because the soldier's interaction is all verbal.

      That means that the soldier does not learn to moderate HIS non-verbal cues based upon the non-verbal cues of the other person.
      • Locals know to make allowances for foreigners. Think about it, if you're talking to a brand new immigrant who speaks english just well enough to get by, and has a horrible accent, are you going to care about his "non-verbal cues"? Or will you appreciate the fact that he's making an effort to communicate in your language, and listen primarily to his words instead of tone and body language?
    • There is something like this for Spanish called 3DLanguage...Indie studio, no killing, just order up the beer and tapas...
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @10:18PM (#14752679) Homepage
    > while Social Puppet is giving on-screen characters human non-verbal communication behaviors

    Can they release an expansion pack for the /. crowd? You know, something that teaches us how to act in social situations like bars and parties?

    And no, Leisure Suit Larry doesn't count.
  • Alternate uses (Score:3, Informative)

    by RiotXIX (230569) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @10:23PM (#14752697) Journal
    I bet this was originally designed as dating software.
  • Nice screenshot. Where's the BFG? Oh. Wrong Game. [tacticallanguage.com] -jim
  • by wormnet.org (955561) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @10:27PM (#14752711) Homepage
    Good lord.

    Two muppets walk into a bar. . .
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The software will help to avoid scenarios like this one:

    "Hey, Jones... do you know what 'foq yeew ameh reekans' means in iraqi?"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They made an interactive version of Team America World Police? and they plan on using poorly made, yet hilarious, movie puppets to teach our soldiers to respond to Durkah durkah bak ka la ka dah mohammed jihad?
  • I would like to see my tax dollars spent on better schools and higher salaries for better teachers than on a software emulation of a social puppet. You cannot fix a person in the Armed Forces after some 18 years of neglect.
    • You know, I wanted to make a post about how wrong you are....but ironically enough, the fact that you could beleive/say something like that is a good indication that more funding for education may not be such a bad idea.

      Carry on.
  • I hope they also teach the language. Body language surely helps when communicating, and it keeps you from making offensive gestures while trying to calm an angry mob, but saying the wrong word at the wrong time... well, I'm sure you know the sketch I borrowed the subject from.
  • Just wait... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by wilburdg (178573)
    It's only a matter of time before controversial pictures surface showing puppets being sexually humiliated, threatened with dogs, and beaten until their stuffing is hanging out.
  • Jeez, I thought it would be just like here where they fall all over themselves making free arabic classes available, pressing 2 on the phone to get english, giving special tests, etc.
  • I'm thinking that they could've gotten better results for less money simply by hiring multilingual hookers to give their soldiers an "education" in language and cultural idiosyncracies prior to deployment. That's how the U.S. army has traditional done the job for the last century, although I admit it's usually been *after* the country in question has been occupied....

    Max
  • Muppet Show (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    I just watched DARPA's social puppet on TV last month, giving the State of the Union address to Congress.
  • I think an even better/more useful application of this would be if the trainee's output of verbal gestures (captured, for instance, by motion capture-sensors/camera) was part of the simulation.

    It would be good to see which gestures, which we might make without knowing, would accidently cause another culture to be offended.

  • The "Tactical Iraqi" demo videos [tacticallanguage.com] are delightfully incomprehensible.

    • The subtitles don't seem to match up with the voices, which sound like Donald Duck over a crappy cellular phone.
    • The conversation goes in random circles, with the friendly Iraqi repeatedly greeting the player.
    • It's impossible to tell what the goal of the conversation is, though eventually the soldiers get some directions.
    • The audio cuts out part-way through.
  • I thought that's what ICANN was...

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