Amidst the heady talk about growing batteries, email network analysis for intel, quantum computing and artificial intelligence at the Army Science Conference, the commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command announced that the service would start using the Second Life virtual world sometime in the next 45 days to help reach more recruits.
The service will create two islands and use them to highlight some of the more exciting things soldiers do, like "jumping out of airplanes" and using various weapons, TRADOC Commander Gen. William Wallace said. To try and ensure the experiment proves as effective as possible, the Army will issue an avatar and connect the possible recruit with a drill sergeant "on a regular basis." They will also use the avatar to screen applicants in part to help increase the likelihood that anyone who signs up will actually join the service. Davis noted that the Army loses 18 percent of those who sign contracts to join the service after a set period like six months.
While he expressed hope that the experiment would work, Gen. Wallace clearly wanted to dampen enthusiasm for the effort, saying he wasn't sure how well the new approach would work. "I'm not sure how far this stuff will take us, but I'm absolutely convinced there is some utility to it," he said. But in the next sentence he said he thought much of social networking's promise had been "oversold."
I tried to get some more details from Davis as headed out the door but he clearly had said all he intended to say, at least for now.
The Army's involvement did not come out of the blue. See Christian's earlier story previewing this.