Friday, December 04, 2009
Some of the finest PR in recent years has come from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It has sponsored contests to develop the robot car, for example, which resulted in vehicles that can negotiate both rural and urban environments without input from humans. Now, the agency is sponsoring a contest that will test crowd sourcing on the internet. The way it is doing it is novel and designed to touch off feverish searching. The agency will float 10 red balloons near roadways across the nation. The first group that spots all 10 will win a cash prize. You can foresee already that the news media will join in the game along with impromptu teams connected by e-mail, texting, phone and anything else that will speed tracking. It should be great fun but it will also tell DARPA how crowd-sourcing works best. In other words, it is not just promotion but serious science. What can be better than that?