$10.7M grant given to OU research team for video game
OU researchers are the recipients of a $10.7 million contract — for a video game.
The Air Force Research laboratory and an OU research team led by communications professor Norah Dunbar are developing a video game to be used by for intelligence analysts.
The lavish grant is equal to the cost of about 178,300 copies of the video game L.A. Noire, so the research opportunity is one-of-a-kind.“I’ve never had a grant this big. In social sciences, a $500,000 dollar grant is a big grant … this $10 million grant knocked everybody’s socks off,” Dunbar said.
The intent behind the game will be used to combat the affects of biases on decision making.
If the process of sorting through information is based on bias and quick decisions rule, then instead of thorough examination of the evidence, it might lead you to make bad decisions, Dunbar said.
That is what the video game is trying to prevent.
Dunbar, along with Scott Wilson, associate director for Innovative Technologies at the OU K20 Center, is overseeing the development of the video game called “Intelligence Crisis”: codename MACBETH, which stands for Mitigating Analysts Cognitive Bias by Eliminating Task Heuristics.
“We’re designing a game that’s going to be basically like being an intelligence agent … You’ll meet witnesses. You’ll gather information. You’ll have to look at maps,” Dunbar said. Later stages of the game will be geared more toward a third-person experience, Dunbar said.
A working prototype of the game must be ready in nine months and then heavy testing will begin, done primarily by students and some actual intelligence agents in Washington D.C.
“It’s pretty aggressive,” Wilson said. “It’s exciting, but there are pretty big milestones we’re going to have to beat in order to deliver.”
The aggressiveness of the timelines does not allow for the normal student participation anticipated in projects similar to this.
Wilson said at the K20 Center, work for students is done at a 4:1 student to full-time staff ratio, but because of the delivery requirements, the ratio is reversed to a 1:4 student to full-time ratio.
The number of graduate students working for Dunbar is also small.Bradley Adame, CQ a fifth year communication graduate student and among the researchers, said the project is an interesting way to go about training.“It deals with a lot of things I’m already interested in and the video game aspect makes it cooler. It’s a new area to explore,” Adame said.
Kylie Harrison, a graduate student working on her Ph.D. in communication, said she too is working in an area of expertise she isn’t familiar.
“It was really incredible to see the amount of collaboration between social scientists, video game experts and intelligence specialists,” Harrison said.
The graduate students working on the project do a lot of grunt work, Adame said, which includes finding and summarizing articles. Wilson’s graduate students focus primarily on finding and helping resolve bugs in the development of the game.And the project isn’t only an OU product.
It is being aided by groups across the country like the Morgidge team in Wisconsin and another team from the University of Arizona led by Judee Burgoon, director of human communication research.
Both Wilson and Dunbar said they are excited for the prospect of working with the two groups considering both have experience working with each group on prior smaller projects.