The US Wants People To Play Games That Will Improve Its Weapons

The US Wants People To Play Games That Will Improve Its Weapons
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The military has a problem. Its weapon systems run on computer code that could have up to five bugs per thousand lines of code and it does not think there are enough experts in the US to test their code sufficiently.

And robots? They can’t get the job done either.

But you could help. The Pentagon is trying to start a four-year $US32 million program to turn the testing of weapon system computer code into video games.

The program is called Crowd Sourced Formal Verification and was announced last month, though it’s gotten a little more press attention this week. Here’s an excerpt from the project announcement issued by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA:

The United States simply does not have enough experts in formal verification of software to provide … manual analysis on the scale required to support formal verification of software in modern weapons and other systems relevant to the Department of Defence. The purpose of CSFV is to replace the requirement of expert knowledge in formal verification with human insight in the form of solutions to games.

The announcement is dense with language like that and void of any description of the games. They don’t say if they’re looking to make puzzle games, games about targeting and shooting or who knows what. They do say that they need loads of games, though it seems that when they say “games” they mean “instances” or “levels” [emphasis in the original]:

The primary research challenge faced by CSFV is automated translation from formal verification problems to compelling games for end users to solve. DARPA expects (but does not require) that games will be instances of templates, more specific than game engines. Note that full automation to produce games will be essential, as there will be far too many games for manual fine tuning: DARPA expects at least hundreds of thousands of games to be needed. DARPA calls this piece of software a fully-automated game level builder.

A function of the formal verification tool, the property to be verified, and the program being verified. All styles of games are within scope of the CSFV program. Proposers should offer their most compelling game design.

DARPA is ready to dole out funding to universities, researchers and companies looking to help make these games and the systems around them. They’re planning to award nearly $US5 million in the next year for this and a full $US32 million into 2015.

If you’re thinking that this is the wrong way to go, that video games and the people who play them are the wrong tools to test the US’ next great weapons, just understand that there is no good alternative. From the announcement: “Some problems are expected to remain beyond any robot’s ability to solve. ” So much for that option.

And if this sounds familiar, DARPA was already trying to get gamers to help improve the US Navy’s submarines.

DARPA-BAA-12-17: Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) [, via SlashGear]


  • Sounds a lot like the first episode of Stargate Uiverse, where Eli solves the mystery of the 9th chevron while playing Stargate Worlds.

  • How are they going to protect the code from any of the gamers who play the games? I would have thought that the code that runs these weapons would be just as useful as the hardware to another military power.

  • Toys, the movie, is happening in real life I see. F^ck you American millitary; I’M not helping you kill people. Put your billions into non-lethal weapons, and THEN I might consider it. But murder? When you have ALL THOSE BILLIONS that’s all you can call it (no non-lethal weapons, all these years), F^CK YOU. Besides. Your government is trying to apply it’s laws to me too- see several high profile extraditions to the us of NON US CITIZENS. So yeah. God DAMN you must think the people of the world are stupid.

  • I see no problem with getting gamers help. Sometimes gamers come up with great ideas and solutions. Helping a military to improve its technolgy means it will be safer for people even if it means someones gotta die its still saving lifes.

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