Gear up, soldier! March 3, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

The Army's announced an app contest. Are any other MeFites interested?

Uncle Sam wants your apps. The contest is called A4A or Apps for the Army. They're looking for apps for "...distributed training, battle command, career management, continuing education or news and information distribution..." or anything else we can think of.
Entry is limited to the first 100 personnel. I know some of us here are serving, but I don't think you have to be in the Army to work on an app, just to sign up.
The top submissions will be recognized at the LandWarNet* conference in August, and split a $30K prize pool.

There's an article here :http://armylive.dodlive.mil/index.php/2010/03/apps-for-the-army-challenge-is-here/

There's a lot on the site. The Army has a secure development site, Forge.mil, and has development and emulator sites for Android and Blackberry. They also provide access to Linux and Windows servers. They say development can be done externally.

So, anyone else interested? If so, post here or send me a memail.

The ArmyApps site is here: (you must be able to log in to AKO) http://www.army.mil/ciog6/armyapps

*like SkyNet, only better.
posted by atchafalaya to MetaFilter Gatherings at 6:13 AM (83 comments total)

I've got a few ideas. Feel free to run with them:

• Twitter, but for soldiers
• Flickr meets Mint, but for soldiers
• Facebook, but for officers
• Some sort of iPhone-like device, but for soldiers

Just send me the check when you win.
posted by Plutor at 6:29 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have an idea it's "Baby Shaker" but instead of shaking it's carpet bombing
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Let's create an app that promises poor teenage boys that if they sign up the Army will pay for them to go to college, and that they'll probably never see any danger. Then it sends them to Afghanistan.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:53 AM on March 3, 2010 [33 favorites]


You're recruiting Metafilter members to do spec work for the US Military? Really?
posted by ryanrs at 6:55 AM on March 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Was this supposed to be in Projects?
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 7:00 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gaydar.


I am going to hell
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 AM on March 3, 2010 [46 favorites]


If I knew anything about the coding required for this sort of thing, I'd certainly give it a shot. Not all MeFites are diametrically opposed to the U.S. military. I've known people who have served and those serving, and I wouldn't have a problem offering a solution that make their lives easier.
posted by Atreides at 7:02 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about a virtual VFW for vets to hang out in. It will have pool and darts and chat functions, and won't have hipsters drinking there ironically.
posted by Think_Long at 7:06 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Army does not love your cheap shots, people!
posted by atchafalaya at 7:06 AM on March 3, 2010


...but those of us who frequent MetaTalk do!
posted by gman at 7:08 AM on March 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Aww, you're gonna hurt the Army's feelings, gman.
posted by ryanrs at 7:13 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about something like HalfBakery only when you submit an idea you don't have to give any information and it's automatically funded?

Alternatively, I could tell them I'm working on a "distributed training" program and then loaf until the end of the project. When I have to submit something, I send in copies of a bunch of FPS games.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on March 3, 2010


It's an app where every time you click it, the DoD gets another trillion dollars and Veteran's benfits get slashed.

I'm just kidding. You don't have to click it!
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 AM on March 3, 2010 [31 favorites]


We all know the next front in the War on Terror is going to be on some Pandora-like planet, so I suggest we create an accessible database of a complete taxonomy of the creatures in Avatar.

Na'avi - shoot to kill
bull things - shoot to kill
flying shit - shoot to kill
Tree of Souls - have sex under
etc. etc.
posted by Think_Long at 7:19 AM on March 3, 2010


You're on a roll!
posted by OmieWise at 7:20 AM on March 3, 2010


Yeah, I don't think you're going to get a lot of good ideas here. Comparatively few MeFites are members of the military or are otherwise privy to the details of military life, so it's difficult for us to say "you know what kind of app soldiers really need? an app that does X." And MeFi being MeFi, the void is inevitably filled with snark.

On top of that, the military is already working on the big ones: maps, secure communications, translation, etc.

Here's a non-snarky idea: a bartering app for soldiers. It's my understanding that it's common to swap things like MREs (e.g., chili for spaghetti or whatever), so an app that facilitated those kinds of exchanges might be useful.

Or maybe an exercise log that's aimed at the exercise programs used by the various branches.
posted by jedicus at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've got an idea, but to test it, I need you to update the lat/long in your profiles.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2010 [25 favorites]


That's the best meta threat I've read in a long while, bravo sir
posted by Think_Long at 7:34 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about an app to track the grooming standards?
posted by Rhomboid at 7:37 AM on March 3, 2010


How about an augmented reality app? Point the camera at someone, and a facial recognition algorithm analyzes their prominent features and skin tone, automatically labeling them as "civilian" or "enemy combatant" if they're not Caucasian enough. With big red bullseyes over the latter so you can mount your phone on your M16 and use it as a spotting scope.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:39 AM on March 3, 2010


How about a generalized platform for computer-based training that ties into an achievements and ranking system. Subjects could include Arabic, local culture, advanced first aid, etc. Most soldiers are young, and it stands to reason that many if not most of them play video games, so they're already familiar with such systems. In addition to providing a social incentive for learning (e.g., bragging rights), the military could also couple it with economic incentives. For example: unlocking an achievement could enter you into a prize drawing or there could be a prize for the highest ranked player each month.

It would also give the military useful stats on who might be a good fit for being moved into a different assignment. For example, they might want to talk to the top scorer in an Arabic learning game about becoming a translator.
posted by jedicus at 7:40 AM on March 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


Actually a high-spped, high intensity language-learning app sounds like a good idea.

huh.
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 AM on March 3, 2010


You just unlocked Farsi translator! Congratulations, we're sending you to Paraguay.
posted by Babblesort at 7:47 AM on March 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


YOU have Unlocked - ARABIC TRANSLATION! - Are You A Queer? Yes-No - You have selected YES! - You have Unlocked: Automatic Discharge!
posted by The Whelk at 7:48 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Automatic discharge? Go see a doctor about that.
posted by gman at 7:51 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not nearly as smelly as dishonorable discharge.

I have no control over my typing
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:53 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


In addition to providing a social incentive for learning (e.g., bragging rights), the military

Anything that increases socialization OR learning in the military is A-OK in my book.
posted by DU at 7:53 AM on March 3, 2010


This is my rifle.
This is my gun.
It's good when this one discharges.
This one should have none.
posted by Babblesort at 7:54 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about an app that helps soldiers understand the sociopolitical background for the conflict they are entering? It could be narrated by the voice of Howard Zinn *sniff* they'll need to use that voice reconstruction software they used for Roger Ebert.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:56 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about an app that time travels back to 2002 and re-invents America's Army.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:00 AM on March 3, 2010


Jedicus has an excellent idea.

I'll also offer to help but let it be known that I'm really only useful for kernel hacking and embedded work. That whole GUI thing? Yeah, not so much. Not a big demand for Cocoa and Obj-C in military sate^H^H^H^H^H^H Barbie games.
posted by Loto at 8:01 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking a mobile version of Modern Warfare so that, between firefights, they can experience the thrills of what it's like to be in combat.
posted by quin at 8:03 AM on March 3, 2010


Oh, fuck it, what they really want is an R. Lee Ermey soundboard so they can play Full Metal Jacket quotes to each other.
posted by klangklangston at 8:03 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about an app that monitors conversation and if any unpatriotic discussion of the war, it's causes, how it's being run, it's purpose or their role in it is detected the phone blasts out an unskippable, unsilenceable 3-hour death metal version of The Star Spangled Banner?
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every 15 minutes, you get a mild electric shock reminding you to say the Pledge into the microphone. The recording is compared against previous samples and if it isn't within milspec tolerances, you get a less mild electric shock.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was thinking an ammo counter that detects when you've fired a shot (accelerometer measures the recoil)

I also think there's an app that does trajectory, but it's for the iphone.

oh it's one of those threads? Ummm. Unicorn button?
posted by hellojed at 8:13 AM on March 3, 2010


I was thinking an ammo counter that detects when you've fired a shot

I have literally 0 knowledge of guns, so this question is genuine: how do soldier's know how many rounds they have left? Is there a counter on the rifle or something?
posted by Think_Long at 8:18 AM on March 3, 2010


how do soldier's know how many rounds they have left?

Just look at the HUD, duh. That's also where you see the icon of yourself that lets you know how wounded you are.
posted by kmz at 8:25 AM on March 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mercy Me!

An app that shows you the location of nearby Blackwater\Xe mercenaries and places where they could meet a little accident.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on March 3, 2010


how do soldier's know how many rounds they have left? Is there a counter on the rifle or something?

There is not. Some clips have holes in them so you can gauge roughly how many bullets are left, but in a gun design that hides the clip (think most pistols, for example), that's not much help. Mostly it's practice and memory.
posted by jedicus at 8:30 AM on March 3, 2010


When firing an M-16/M-4 you can very easily tell when you've shot the last round in the magazine because the bolt carrier engages on the bolt catch (activated by the follower in the mag.) This results in a different sound and feel due to different recoil, and additionally since the bolt is wide open and the ejection port is open you can smell the aroma of burnt powder that wafts out of the hot chamber.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:33 AM on March 3, 2010


(And similarly for 1911-style pistols, and so on.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:37 AM on March 3, 2010


The M1 Garand conveniently came with an enhanced broadcast notification feature that let everyone know when the rifle was out of ammo. Think of it as twitter for getting shot in the face.
posted by zamboni at 8:46 AM on March 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


That's the best description of that noise I've heard yet.
posted by quin at 8:55 AM on March 3, 2010


Mostly it's practice and memory

Years ago, when I still shot regularly, we came up with an idea to quickly know when to get ready to reload; we stuck a tracer (Hornady Vectors IIRC) one round from the bottom of the magazine. As soon as you saw it, you knew that the last round was in the chamber.

Problem was, those Vectors were miserable rounds and regularly failed to cycle the slide, so we said "screw it" and went back to the classic waiting-for-the-slide-to-lock-open method that's worked for everyone else for years.
posted by quin at 9:01 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there a counter on the rifle or something?

Well, there's that, and then the two Zerglings edge closer. One of them dies after taking an explosive round to the face, soon followed by the other. You follow the trench behind you to a lone, helmetless Ghost, rocking back and forth and praying wrapped in a strand of wire lights. You ask him "Who's in charge here?" and he does not answer. You ask him "Where is the air support?" and he points upwards as he continues, rocking and praying. The searchlights turn on overhead and illuminate your position. High above, the admiral closes his eyes, the searchlights turn off, and the fleet departs. You are soon overrun in the darkness.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:03 AM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Inspector.Gadget - Wings of Liberty is never going to come out, no matter how many waking dreams you have.
posted by Think_Long at 9:18 AM on March 3, 2010


I think the military could honestly use an app that lets you find the nearest discounts/free stuff available for military personnel on leave or in port based on their current location.
posted by misha at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Grindr allready exists misha.
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's a non-snarky idea: a bartering app for soldiers.

That's actually a pretty neat idea. It would need to be location aware (and with a very high level of granularity) to be useful, but if you can do that I could really see it coming in handy.

I could see it working by letting you take photos of items you had available for trade, then maybe some list of stuff that you were looking for, and then letting people make offers out of their own inventory. If you accepted the deal it would provide contact info so you could complete the trade.

Doesn't seem like it would be very hard from a technical perspective, although it would require some backend infrastructure and I'm not sure how you'd monetize it and pay for the maintenance. (That's sort of the rub on a lot of 'neat ideas', but maybe if Uncle Sam is involved it removes the constraints a bit.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:26 AM on March 3, 2010


The M1 Garand conveniently came with an enhanced broadcast notification feature that let everyone know when the rifle was out of ammo. Think of it as twitter for getting shot in the face.

The crusty old dude that taught our civilian marksmanship course said most people kept a few spare magazines around and would toss them up in the air to make the ping sound. When the enemy popped up to take a shot, they'd still have a couple rounds ready.
posted by electroboy at 9:27 AM on March 3, 2010


Auto-deleter for camera pictures.
posted by fleacircus at 9:43 AM on March 3, 2010


here's a serious idea:

An app detailing soldier options for dealing with the tremendous emotional and psychological damage they may suffer from as a result of being involved in the military. It would have a menu at launch with the following options:

a) general contact list for counseling, therapy and emergency contact numbers, auto-dialed from the app by clicking the contact they want. So if he needs to talk to somebody immediately, he can open the app, click "Contacts," click "Emergency Counseling" and have someone instantly available to talk him down from a traumatic response he may be having.

b) In app documentation for dealing with trauma, what to expect and general information regarding the kinds of emotional and psychological traume likely to be encountered. Basically an in-app copy of their printed material on the subject, complete with text search, bookmarks, note-making capability, copy-paste and hyperlinks for any contact info (email, web site, phone numbers) that may be mentioned in the doc.

c) browsable interactive faq so the soldier can simply ask questions (through text input AND browsing the default question list) that he may not understand how to get answers for through the other 2 means. It would answer "what is PTSD?" as well as "Who is my Counseling Contact at base?"

The idea is two-fold: total redundancy. all the info in the app should be found in all three browsing methods. the soldiers should be able to find the info in whatever way they understand best, and not have to worry about which piece of info is located where. the second part is soldier ID. the app should know whose phone it is, and be able to access a database that pertains to his specific location, rank, platoon, etc... If his counseling would be dealt with by a particular office, that should be the number his app automatically calls, and it shouldn't have to force him to deal with a generalized operator-service that would require him to enter info through keypad and automated menu. One option is that, for instance, if he visits a counselor and would like to keep that counselor as his primary contact for therapy, the counselor can take his own phone - enter info into it designating himself as primary therapeutic contact (perhaps a separate app for service providers), and thereby be registered by the app as the primary therapy contact, via email, phone, whatever. Let a remote server handle managing all that info. The soldier should have as little interference between himself and contacting who he needs to as possible.

lastly, the whole point of this is information. the soldier, if properly informed about what he's experiencing and what his options are, could hopefully find his situation a little less hopeless and his options a little broader than he might otherwise have thought. Providing for their mental safety involves a lot of factors, but information and readily available support seems to me to be a crucial factor.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 AM on March 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


you know, I came in here wanting to talk about a joke app idea? what the fuck.
posted by shmegegge at 10:00 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's actually a really good idea shmegegge, considering how the military's unofficial reaction has been to try to downplay PTSD, I'd be really interested in seeing how they'd react to someone putting an app like this together and making the issue much more visible.

At the very least, something like this could make soldiers aware that what they are going through is something that can be helped.
posted by quin at 10:04 AM on March 3, 2010


lastly, the whole point of this is information. the soldier, if properly informed about what he's experiencing and what his options are, could hopefully find his situation a little less hopeless and his options a little broader than he might otherwise have thought

But part of the problem-a very large part-is military culture even at the enlisted level. Needing help is seen as weakness...until you change THAT I don't care how many resources you put out there, they will be unterutilized.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:16 AM on March 3, 2010


They're obviously just hoping someone will port this to Android, and save their snipers $3.99 each...
posted by kxr at 10:27 AM on March 3, 2010


A fun, simple, engaging game to pass the time, say on a patrol or watch, that interrupts itself periodically to remind the user to check/look/whatever he's supposed to be doing. Maybe it could be an audio or even tactile game so that most of the senses would be available to continuously watch, etc.
posted by amtho at 10:56 AM on March 3, 2010


Maybe something like Company Command and Platoon Leader for enlisted personnel?
posted by mlis at 11:11 AM on March 3, 2010


A fun, simple, engaging game to pass the time, say on a patrol or watch,

I don't think that's quite how it's meant to work.
posted by jacalata at 12:19 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


App that differentiates between British allies & enemy combatants.
posted by i_cola at 12:22 PM on March 3, 2010


So, any of the apps which are rejected will be "A4F?"
posted by hippybear at 1:08 PM on March 3, 2010


Harvest Moon. Or maybe something with Kirby.

In all seriousness, jedicus and shmegegge had good ideas. So did the Whelk. How hard would it be to put subliminal recruitments for the homosexual lifestyle in an app this size?
posted by jtron at 1:23 PM on March 3, 2010


n/m, just bundle a blue-ray of 300
posted by jtron at 1:23 PM on March 3, 2010


• Twitter, but for soldiers

SUPPORT OUR TWOOPS.
posted by mintcake! at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also: posted to MetaFilter gatherings?
posted by mintcake! at 1:51 PM on March 3, 2010


Really? The call is A4A? The army really is gay.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:13 PM on March 3, 2010


"Really? The call is A4A? The army really is gay."

At least it's not A2M.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:24 PM on March 3, 2010


I don't have an idea, but while I was reading this my Pandora was playing "Rich man's war" by Steve Earle.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:25 PM on March 3, 2010


A fun, simple, engaging game to pass the time

From my understanding of all the ads my tax dollars pay for, being in the army already is a fun video game.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:50 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about an app that did Naming of Parts?
posted by tellurian at 5:36 PM on March 3, 2010


I can work on spec for the Army? Boeing doesn't make $600 hammers on spec, but I can work for the possibility of a prize?

I see why this is limited to serving personnel.
posted by orthogonality at 6:45 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're obviously just hoping someone will port [small arms ballistics software] to Android, and save their snipers $3.99 each...

Well, actually, I'm working on that. But just for my own, non-military long-range shooting.

Anyway, many long-range snipers are already issued (or will soon be issued) ballistics computers.
posted by Netzapper at 6:50 PM on March 3, 2010


If the mental health of enlistees was at the top of the Army's list ... AND ... if the Army seriously wanted to do something about it, shmegegge's idea would be a prize winner.

As it is, I doubt any enlistee would trust the military to not use mental health information (i.e., searches for information?) against him/her. The young military population are not just avoiding personal health care due to 'ego' concerns -- they have very real career threats to consider.

Are there any Army apps that could truly protect one's anonymity when seeking help/information about such sensitive topics?
posted by Surfurrus at 7:08 PM on March 3, 2010


Distributed app to record fire and locate snipers based on time and GPS coordinates?

Secure augmented reality app that lets you "see" through walls/buildings to spot friendlies? if they are also logged on.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:41 PM on March 3, 2010


Stolen from my roommate: "how about an app that checks soldiers' gamertags, playstation accounts, etc. to see if they ever got tagged for griefing in order to dismiss them before friendly fire becomes an issue?"
posted by Rinku at 11:39 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's create an app that promises poor teenage boys that if they sign up the Army will pay for them to go to college, and that they'll probably never see any danger. Then it sends them to Afghanistan.

You talk like this is a new thing. My father was going to be drafted and wanted to avoid combat. The Coast Guard recruiter told him that if he enlisted with them he'd be patrolling the East Coast for two years. Dad signed up.

He spent the next two years on a cutter patrolling the Vietnamese coast.
posted by dw at 11:02 AM on March 4, 2010


Well, to be fair, it was the east coast of Vietnam.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2010


Thanks for all the ideas and laughs, everybody. I'll post here if something comes of it.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2010




which means no mefite participation unless a mefite works in the armed forces and has permission from his supervisor to participate.
posted by shmegegge at 12:27 PM on March 4, 2010


Sorry, I work for the DoD, but I guess I can't even be a sponsor.
posted by fixedgear at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2010


Well, I'm a mefite who works in the armed forces and can get permission from my supervisor, so there's one, at least.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2010


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