The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity often selects its research efforts through the Broad Agency Announcement process. This request for information is intended to provide information relevant to a possible future IARPA program, so that feedback from potential participants can be considered prior to the issuance of a BAA. Respondents are invited to provide comments on the content of this announcement to include suggestions for improving the scope of a possible solicitation to ensure that every effort is made to adequately address the scientific and technical challenges described below. Additionally, responses to this request may be used to i) inform a two day workshop (explained below), and/or ii) support development of, and subsequently be incorporated within, a future IARPA Program BAA. Therefore, responses must be available for unrestricted public distribution and hence proprietary material should not be included in responses. The following sections of this announcement contain details of the scope of technical efforts of interest, along with instructions for the submission of responses.

Background and Scope

In the last decade, advancements in computer technology have made 3D, multimodal, multi-sensory, and increasingly realistic simulated experiences more commonly available through Virtual Worlds and immersive computer games. VWs and computer games are now being used for serious applications in a number of areas. Affordable, virtual medical simulations for training surgeons, combat medics and first responders are now available. The military has built games that aim to teach soldiers cultural awareness and sensitivity to local customs and norms. Companies are exploring virtual worlds as an effective alternative to in-person staff orientation and training. Virtual world and game applications have recently been shown to be effective in lifestyle changes and therapy for smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss, adherence to treatment protocols, and treatment of phobias and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (See footnotes for example.)1, 2

Most of the examples listed above have used virtual environments focused on a particular end goal. Other researchers have suggested that these environments may also have positive, unintended consequences. For example, researchers have found that surgeons who played computer games were faster and had fewer errors in a laparoscopic surgery training course, than surgeons who were not gamers.3

Some individuals claim that gaming can enhance problem-solving skills, critical thinking, teamwork, and persistence in the face of adversity,4, 5 although the amount of empirical research in this area is relatively sparse. In the Intelligence Community and in the field of business intelligence in general, such skills are highly desirable. It is well-known that analysts can be hampered by problems of groupthink, premature attachment to early hypotheses, confirmation bias, and cultural bias, for example. Might gaming environments provide an antidote?6, 7

As cited above, studies to date support the proposition that immersive environments can affect Real World performance, but much of the previous research has been focused on case studies and gross-level effects. Few metrics have been developed for identifying and measuring a game or virtual environment's variables or features that correlate with these positive effects.

IARPA is interested in focused, quantitative research to understand how virtual worlds and immersive games may have RW effects, particularly those effects that could positively impact individual and group analytic performance. What are the important VW (and RW) environmental variables that control the strength and persistence of such effects? Examples of variables include, but are not limited to: degree of fidelity, image and sound quality, level of immersion, amount of repetition, social effects, narrative structure, language skills, and cultural background.

Submissions should be theory-driven, and any prospective VW or game development, along with experimental paradigms to test their effectiveness, should be informed by existing or new theories. Theories may be derived from a number of disciplines, including but not limited to: education, clinical psychology, social psychology, health care, or neurology.

Submissions may also address one or more of the following topics:

  1. Alternative virtual environments, ranging from Virtual Reality rooms to desktop/laptop applications to mobile handheld devices/applications
  2. Quantitative methods for reliably predicting and objectively measuring expected RW effects and actual RW effects due to the complex variables, including longitudinal effects
  3. Literature reviews or perspectives on research. Research does not need to be directly related to analytic processes, but may be based in other domains such as VWs for education/training, or gaming for health.

The responses to this RFI will be used to help in the planning of a one to two day workshop. The results of this workshop may justify a multi-year competitive program. The selection of topics, participants, and setting of the agenda of this workshop will in part be informed by the responses, with responders potentially being invited to participate and present at this workshop. It is anticipated that this workshop will be held in May 2010.

Preparation Instructions to Respondents

IARPA solicits respondents to submit ideas related to this topic for use by the Government in formulating a potential program. IARPA requests that submittals briefly and clearly describe the potential approach or concept, outline critical technical issues, and comment on the expected performance, robustness, and a rough order of magnitude cost estimate of the proposed approach. This announcement contains all of the information required to submit a response. No additional forms, kits, or other materials are needed.

IARPA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources from within and outside of the US. Responses leveraging insights from teams with complementary areas of expertise are encouraged. Responses have the following formatting requirements:

  1. A one page cover sheet that identifies the title, organization(s), respondent's technical and administrative points of contact - including names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, and mail addresses of all co-authors, and clearly indicating its association with IARPA-RFI-10-04;
  2. A substantive, focused, one-half page executive summary;
  3. A description (limited to a maximum of 5 pages in minimum 12 point Times New Roman font, appropriate for single-sided, single-spaced 8.5 by 11 inch paper, with 1-inch margins) of the technical challenges and suggested approach(es);
  4. A list of citations (any significant claims or reports of success must be accompanied by citations, and reference material MUST be attached);
  5. Optionally, a single overview briefing chart graphically depicting the key ideas.


Disclaimers and Important Notes

This is an RFI issued solely for information and new program planning purposes and does not constitute a solicitation. Respondents are advised that IARPA is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received, or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted under this RFI.

Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. Respondents are solely responsible for all expenses associated with responding to this RFI. It is the respondents' responsibility to ensure that the submitted material has been approved for public release by the organization that funded whatever research is referred to in their response.

The Government does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or to otherwise pay for the information solicited, nor is the Government obligated to issue a solicitation based on responses received. Neither proprietary nor classified concepts or information should be included in the submittal. Input on technical aspects of the responses may be solicited by IARPA from non-Government consultants/experts who are bound by appropriate non-disclosure requirements.



1 Fox, J., & Bailenson, J.N. (2009). Virtual self-modeling: The effects of vicarious reinforcement and identification on exercise behaviors. Media Psychology, 12, 1-25.

2 McLay, R., McBrien, C., Wiederhold, M., & Wiederhold, B. (2009). Exposure Therapy with and without Virtual Reality to Treat PTSD while in the Combat Theater: A Parallel Case Series. CyberPsychology & Behavior.

3 Rosser, J. C., Lynch, P. J., Haskamp, L, Gentile, D. A., & Yalif, A. (2007). The impact of video games in surgical training. Archives of Surgery, 142, 181-186.

4 IBM & Seriosity report (2007). Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders: Online games put the future of business leadership on display. A Global Innovation Outlook 2.0 Report.

5 Beck, J.C. & Wade, M. (2006) "The Kids are Alright: How the Gamer Generation is Changing the Workplace"

6 Cooper, J. R. (2005) Curing Analytic Pathologies: Pathways to Improved Intelligence Analysis. Center for the Study of Intelligence.

7 Heuer, R. J. (1999) Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Center for Study of Intelligence.

For information contact:


Posted Date: 12 March 2010
Responses Due: 12 April 2010