Announcing the 2011 Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge!

Tami Griffith is a Science and Technology Manager for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Simulation & Training Technology Center. She specializes in games and virtual worlds for training. She is the originator of the Federal Virtual World Challenge and has been a leader in extending the Army into various virtual environments. She is currently exploring ways to improve a user’s sense of presence using low-cost off-the-shelf technology with current emphasis on neural-navigation.

Virtual environments allow users to have the sense that they exist in a different place. That place may allow them to defy physical laws, float in space, stand on the ocean floor, or it may replicate the real world very closely. These environments may facilitate meetings with shared documentation or collaboration on complex 3D models or they may involve individual quests. There are thousands of virtual environments available, from ToonTown to Second Life, each with their own strengths. They are easy to access and many are free. Because virtual environments are easily accessible simulations, they have piqued the interest of many people within the U.S. Government for a variety of uses.

Federal Virtual Worlds ChallengeThe Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge began in 2010 as a way to explore the potential uses of virtual environments for training and analysis. The goal was for world-wide developers to share their concepts with the U.S. Government as well as the public in general. The results were announced at the 2010 Defense GameTech Users’ Conference and can be seen in the video above. Additional video footage can be seen in another Armed with Science blog post by Dr. Curtis Conkey titled “Meet the Winners of the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge” in June of 2010.  $50,000 in travel and cash was awarded to the winners of the 2010 challenge.

This year’s Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge is focused on Artificial Intelligence. We’re very excited because we expect to see true leaders emerge in this vast research area. The criteria for entry are intentionally unconstrained to promote creativity and innovation. Artificial Intelligence includes adaptive learning systems, intelligent conversational bots, adaptive behavior (objects or processes) and a host of areas that haven’t even been considered, yet.

In 2011 there be a $25,000 Grand Prize, as there was last year, but there is a significant increase in the amount each winner will receive in each category:   1st place will receive $5,000, 2nd will receive $3,000 and 3rd will receive $1,000. Travel accommodations will also be provided again for the non-government winners to the DoD GameTech Conference, held in Orlando on March 22-25, 2011.

The expectation is that what we learn from the entries will set us on the road to better tools that can benefit the entire modeling and simulation community. So whether you’re a developer with something significant to share, or an end-user, the Federal Virtual World Challenge has a lot to offer.  If you are interested in becoming a Government evaluator, please email If you are a developer, the due date for entries is December 6, 2010. Either way, I look forward to your involvement!

You can also support the Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge on

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