Pentagon Wants 'Virtual Parents' for Military Kids

Program would sub artificial intelligence for moms, dads overseas
By Sam Biddle,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2009 11:25 AM CST
The Department of Defense wants virtual parents to comfort children in military families.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The US Department of Defense hopes to ward off trauma for children with deployed parents by replacing mommy or daddy with a computerized replica, Melissa Lafsky writes for Discover. The proposal, pitched on DoD’s “Small Business Innovation Web” site, describes a “highly interactive PC- or Web-based application to allow family members to verbally interact with ‘virtual’ renditions of deployed Service Members.”

The Pentagon claims the proposed project could “allow a child to receive comfort from being able to have simple, virtual conversations with a parent who is not available “in-person” regarding “generic, everyday topics.” But many are dubious of the proposal, citing a lack of understanding of behavioral psychology and a risk of traumatizing children further, rather than soothing them.