Bad Idea of the Day: Creating "Virtual Parents" for Kids of U.S. Troops

By Melissa Lafsky | January 7, 2009 12:24 pm

baby at computerThe Department of Defense has apparently grown a conscience. After nearly six years of deploying troops to Iraq, many of them parents, the DOD is acknowledging that kids are spending years without a mother or father around. And, given that mental health issues are already taking a severe toll on Iraq vets, putting stress on marriages and disrupting lives, it’s only logical that children are getting caught in the crossfire, so to speak.

So, rather than oh, say, ban repeated deployments or lift stop-loss orders, the government has decided to nip the absent-parent problem in the bud by creating… computerized parents. According to a proposal solicitation (via InformationWeek) on the Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Web site, the DOD is looking for a “highly interactive PC- or Web-based application to allow family members to verbally interact with ‘virtual’ renditions of deployed Service Members.”(Insert “Hello, DAD”—”Hello, Little Dave” joke here.)

The proposal outlines the idea as follows:

The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. For instance, a child may get a response from saying “I love you”, [sic] or “I miss you”, [sic] or “Good night mommy/daddy.” This is a technologically challenging application because it relies on the ability to have convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.

In other words, we should make computers that lie to small children by pretending to be their parents.

The DOD argues that this “simulated mommy” program would work for/appeal to kids because “[o]ver 80 percent of American children between the ages of three and five regularly use computers, and 83 percent of families have a computer in their home.” Of course, that’s really the rub now, isn’t it: Kids today are remarkably computer-savvy, and are thus more able to tell the difference between an AI simulation and their dad. And we won’t even touch the potential for disaster this idea has should the actual parent never wind up coming home

RB: Out of a Job? Electronic Warfare Firms Are Hiring!
RB: Over a Year After YouTube Ban, Military Launches “TroopTube”

Image: iStockPhoto

MORE ABOUT: Iraq, military

Comments (58)

  1. Scott

    While this is clearly a bad idea, comments like “So, rather than oh, say, ban repeated deployments or lift stop-loss orders” ignore the reality the military is dealing with. It is simply too small to properly handle the wars it needs to fight and should be expanded.

  2. Wow, that is absoultely the stupidest, dumbest, and the most f.cked up thing i’ve ever heard. I am rubbing my eyes, and it is still there.

  3. Andre


    ” It is simply too small to properly handle the wars it needs to fight and should be expanded.”

    The military had the biggest budget around a trillion dollars a year. How can it possibly expand any more than it already has?

  4. And here I was, thinking that it would be easier for them to give service members free Skype accounts (or similar), but that’s just crazy-talk.

  5. jacko

    Yes – it’s fucked up. But taking parents away from their kids is fucked up too. Kids without parents are at a statistical disadvantage regardless, so I don’t see how this could make their situation any worse. And considering the kinds of things that unsupervised kids are looking at on the internet, this is not so bad.

  6. K

    Wow! Touchy subject. As a military brat, I’ve experienced prolonged periods where my dad was away. (Although, thankfully, we didn’t have major wars during that time.) What is weird is not the absence, but the re-presence of a person. I’ve always felt a little bit disjointed from my family, although they’re really important to me. The effect is more pronounced when I’m with my extended family; cousins, aunts and the like who lived in the US. (I lived abroad for most of my childhood up until my adulthood.) When you grow apart from someone, it’s like there’s really no connection there at all, even if you know you’re blood related.

    I wonder how the parent, mom or dad, would feel like leaving their children when they called them “mommy” or “daddy,” then returning to “mom” or “dad.” Will they miss the things they never had a chance to notice?

    I think that these virtual parents will be a detriment to both the children and the service member. When the parent actually comes home, the child might be surprised to find that mom or dad is really quite articulate. For a short while, you can fool little children. That’s why Blues Clues is so fun. However, I think that the troops will be deployed to Iraq for years and years, and an emphasis on real time communication is going to be critical. This is basically a long distance relationship on steroids. (Has anyone tried dating someone in another country, in another timezone?)

    The best thing is just to have mom or dad near by. And the worst thing is how people at home step up to the plate to take that role when mom or dad is away.

  7. Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on Digg telling that the info is quite decent. Thanks.

  8. Highest quality replica rolex will to meet your expectation.replica rolex watches are made from the highest quality parts and crafted with such attention to detail.We offer discount price for you. When you order replica rolex watche at our site.

  9. I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  10. The UGG Classic Short Boots is UGG Australia’s most popular women’s sheepskin boot! The Cheap UGG Boots features lavish twin-faced sheepskin for the utmost comfort. Precision craftsmanship is evident in the Classic Short’s reinforced heel, raw seams and signature UGG heel label. More UGG Boots on sale at Oluggs.We also provide Discount Adidas shoes and Cheap Timberland boots for you if you loving.

  11. with many years’ devotional research and exploitation, MBT shoes finally plunged to market in 1996 and have aroused consumers’ great interest. Recently,MBT Lami shoes has a huge sales network in over 20 countries with products sales. Every year this kind of revolutionary products is in sales of approximately one million pairs. Its such popularity attribute to MBT chapa shoes having the hope that help people around the world have a more healthy, active and happy life.
    When wearing MBT M.Walk shoes , the straightening degree of the body will be increased by 10% than the degree of wearing traditional shoes, which will be more helpful to shape good buttocks and back. It also increases the hip muscle exercise by more than 9%. Lead a healthy lifestyle from every step.

  12. Grey Ugg Cardy Boots On Sale! We are professional supply Ugg Classic Short Boots , UGG Sundance II on Softugg.Inc,is your best choice,Enjoying shopping now!
    Nike Shoes

    Ugg pink tall Sale Now!Buy 2009 new Ugg Ultra Short Boots ,Cheap Ugg Nightfall Boots On!100% authentic,free shipping and notnax,save you 50% Off!!!
    cheap timberland boots

  13. ugg new york so porpular,it like
    Straighteners in new york,so
    ugg outlet is very china there are many
    ghd and
    uggs outlet.and I think you will like it!

  14. ugg boots sale-Warm ugg boots for all the family remain at the heart of our collection,find your favorite UGGs from stunning designs-ugg boots uk.
    ugg bailey button ugg bailey button
    UGG Nightfall Boots sale UGG Nightfall Boots sale
    classic tall ugg boots classic tall ugg boots


  15. wow what a interesting post , its really
  16. wow what a interesting post , its really
  17. I agree with you, I think it’s a good topic. So would you like the info about the
    cheap ugg boots
    ugg boots sale
    ugg boots
    air jordan shoes
    air jordans
    jordan shoes
    ugg boots uk

  18. Welcome to purchase online or contact us and we will be happy to

    provide you with the best quality service of replica rolex .
    replica watches paypal is loved by many young people.It’s one of hot

    items of our company.If you haven’t worn fake rolex watches you are

    missing out.They are fashiona and nice.

  19. wow what a interesting post , its really
  20. hanyu

    Support of the Lou Zhu, Lou Zhu worked hard
    Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.
    ugg bailey button
    ugg classic cardy

  21. ghd is quality may be interested in pink ghd or
    ghd kiss.

  22. Do you feel this information would be beneficial for a noob trader/investor like me? I’ve not had a lot of success as of yet but I’m determined to keep on going. One problem I see is that there are very many opposing perspective regarding a lot of issues. I try to read as much as possible and keep an eye out for those views that are often held. I figure that if a lot of people are saying the same thing, it’s reasonable to think there may be some truth in it.

  23. Not everybody realizes that every action you perform on the PC is stored in the computer’s registry. This is the huge database that files away all the details in what’s known as “keys”. Windows refers back to this database where information is stored all the time it performs an action. Eventually as you install new programs, remove others, browse the web and do all the other stuff you should with your computer, the registry gets clogged up with old information and causes the computer to slow. Registry repair software can assist to restore your computer function to its best. Stop messing around and get the best registry cleaning software at

  24. [a/][a]Christian Louboutin[/a]

  25. I recommend you go to online store, there have a lot of ugg boots sale,If you want to buy a pair of cheap ugg boots uk.More and more people choose ugg boots uk. So you know that ugg series of the most famous is the ugg boots.bailey ugg boots.UGG Classic Tall Boots
    UGG Classic Short Boots
    UGG Kids Boots.

  26. You will never find swimsuit more excellent than in Ed Hardy!
    ed hardy ugg boots
    ed hardy love kills slowly boots
    ed hardy love kills slowly
    We provide you with the sexiest swimwear at present. Wanting to be bright on beach in this
    ed hardy polo shirts
    ed hardy love kills slowly shoes
    ed hardy wear
    Abandoning traditional concepts on sexy swimwear, Ed Hardy adds tattoo upon, which is meaning
    how your outline if only you like now! Genuine material admits you to throw your whole worr
    ed hardy love kills slowly shirts
    ed hardy trousers
    ed hardy jackets
    It seems that ed hardy mens shoes was difficult to be able to let you exist out in swimwear, the
    just fold, flouncing, bow and swim suits, Ed Hardy has been widely worn in open.
    ed hardy t shirts sale
    ed hardy womens t shirts
    ed hardy boots
    In the trunks term, the Panerai candy-flush has mainly took the Louis Vuitton Speedy purpose
    I fondness ed hardy womens Swimwear shirts, and other printing of
    ed hardy womens clothes
    ed hardy womens shirts
    ed hardy clothes
    swimwear in an austere tone proposal combines the exclusive tailoring,
    wimwear this summer to become the mainstream trend. Cool down, sunshine fair,
    ed hardy outerwear
    ed hardy womens
    ed hardy womens jeans
    green MOISTURE, attractive red no other elements,
    together with the unique thwart-buckle create worn, immediately show a charming beauty.
    ed hardy bags
    ed hardy winter boots
    ed hardy t shirts
    Whether it is sexy bikini, or cross-quantity g-star
    trunks intended to reach new heights with this dynamic.Enjoy yourself on Ed Hardy Bikini Swimsuit please!
    ed hardy bags
    ed hardy winter boots
    ed hardy t shirts
    The desired redden of this type
    of bag, but once again the label that ed hardy and the Christian Audigier Brand Manage
    Louboutin at MAGIC in August 2009.
    ed hardy t shirts for men
    ed hardy mens jeans
    ed hardy mens shoes
    The total spectrum of Audigier Brand Management lifestyle brands and crop will be
    including ed hardy shirts, Christian Audigier, SMET, Crystal Rock, C-Bar-An and R
    ed hardy mens shoes
    ed hardy womens hoodies
    ed hardy mens tees
    food ranging from ment and woment garb, accessories, footwear.

  27. There are several laws through Kate Moss’s street shoot photos of three styles ugg boots sale

    which is highly exposed. How Nice!!ugg boots store are the Favorite of Grey bear UGG

    with pon-poms are right for clothings in grey color, being moderate without losing elegance. The Unknown Cons of
    uk ugg boots . Here’s the Answer. The black color Ugg is mostly worthy of collection which

    is never old fashioned. While collocating with black clothes, it sends out cool sense to unlimited degree.Look On Ball:
    ugg boots sale !

  28. It is important to take care to look after your hearing, I actually like taking care hearing and whilst I do agree with the higher up poster and I really hope I do not get shot down for stating this, but I believe it is important to take all things in moderation. Rolex replica Rolex replica , replica Rolex replica Rolex, replica Breitling replica Breitling, replica Cartier replica Cartier , replica Omega replica Omega , replica Tag Heuer replica Tag Heuer

  29. linda

    Are you still worried about how to put the song to iphone ringtone? iTunes Ringtones Creator is the answer, which can make your own ringtones from a wide range of video and audio files in your library and send the created ringtone to your iPhone 3G and all other models directly. You may also interested in this ultra iPhone 3G Ringtone.
    WMV Converter for Mac
    VOB Converter for Mac
    MOV Converter for Mac
    MPEG Converter for Mac
    AVI Converter for Mac
    FLV to MOV Mac

  30. Keep up the great work blogging. I’ve been searching for a decent pet store in glen burnie.

  31. dxrgjjuukdd

    [url=]Amanda Seyfried nude[/url] Amanda Seyfried nude
    [url=]Alison Brie nude[/url] Alison Brie nude
    [url=]Michelle Trachtenberg Nude[/url] Michelle Trachtenberg Nude
    [url=]Zoe Saldana Naked[/url] Zoe Saldana Naked
    [url=]Katy Perry nude[/url] Katy Perry nude
    [url=]Lady GaGa nude[/url] Lady GaGa nude
    [url=]Lindsay Lohan Topless[/url] Lindsay Lohan Topless
    [url=]Katrina Bowden Nude[/url] Katrina Bowden Nude
    [url=]Kristen Stewart Nude[/url] Kristen Stewart Nude
    [url=]Snookie nude[/url] Snookie nude

  32. Your page definitely was one of the top points of my weekend. I was on Msn looking for something completely not related while the title captured my interest. I

  33. biological began net external stricter action link concerns substantial [url=]sres decline economists temperatures pollution[/url]

  34. Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for first aid for a heart attack and your post

  35. djubi test [url=]legal high[/url]

  36. sdf

    weight loss weight loss
    rapid weight loss tips rapid weight loss tips
    Weight Loss Motivation Tips Weight Loss Motivation Tips
    tomic tomic
    Cartier Montblanc Cartier Montblanc
    blackberry fans blackberry fans
    jordan shoes jordan shoes
    true religion true religion
    love coach handbags love coach handbags
    monica~yo monica~yo
    nfl jerseys nfl jerseys
    ed hardy shirt ed hardy shirt
    weight loss tips weight loss tips
    ghd ghd
    seochan seochan
    jerseys jerseys
    shoes shoes
    wholesale wholesale
    abercrombie fitch abercrombie fitch
    tomic tomic
    time’s up time’s up
    skechers shape ups shoes skechers shape ups shoes

  37. aa

    Now days, they also have what are called the buy nfl jerseys [url=][b]buy nfl jerseys[/b][/url]
    , and there are many teams that use these many times during the season. Most of the time, teams wear the cheap football jerseys
    for a very specific reason. Most of the time, this reasons is to honor someone or something. The cheap football jerseys
    can be a lot of fun, but it can be confusing for the fans. They love them, but when a game is going, cheap jerseys
    might be hard to tell one team from another because you are used to the current types of uniforms that they are nfl jerseys

  38. dava

    I like this woman. She included that all voices within those communities, whether it be directly or through local organizations, must be heard. revizyon ile organize matbaacılık brnckvvtmllttrhaberirevizyon ile organize matbaacılık brnckvvtmllttrhaberirevizyon ile organize matbaacılık brnckvvtmllttrhaberilidaoyun oynaoyun oynafilm izleare particularly vulnerable to discrimination on any other grounds, including gender, ethnicity, or disability.”

  39. aa

    href=””>ugg classic crochet white
    can be worn with leggings. This gives you a trendy and chic look and can be worn almost everywhere. ugg classic crochet chocolate
    looks good with black leggings. You can also wear the ugg classic crochet black
    tucked into your jeans. This works best with skinny jeans and looks cool while helping to keep your feet dry and warm at the same time. The jeans can also be rolled up and worn with a cuff along the ugg chocolate crochet
    . This gives a casual rugged look and is easy and versatile.ugg black crochet

  40. aa
    am the fans of blue timberland boots
    brands,specially because of its high performance in mountains.i love nature tripping,and it seems i should make sure my footwear be sure to work at long time,and waterproof,then cheap timberland boots
    can finish the job.the timberland winter boots
    was built 25 years ago,cause of quality controlling,each pari of timberland boots uk
    on sale have been intricately created and carefully designed to be tutmost confort and protection ,specially for outdoor activites.timberland boots women
    are welcomed by most mens and womens,thats why they are in good selling.

Collapse bottom bar