MIT Wins DARPA Balloon Hunt

by Matt Ball on December 6, 2009

The team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology won the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) red balloon challenge that promoted the use of social networking to find the latitude and longitude of 10 red weather balloons scattered throughout the United States. The win comes with a $40,000 award.

The real-world experiment was designed to study how information spreads through social networks. The scope effectively crowd-sourced nationwide teams to solve a real world challenge. The organizers plan to study the rules that govern human networking, what gets them to act, and how quickly the information spreads. The hope is to come up with new ways real-time information gathering that can be used to send word about infectious diseases, to find missing people or to discover terrorist threats.

MIT used the monetary award as an incentive, giving $2,00 per balloon to the first person that sent the correct coordinates, and $1,000 to the person that invited them onto the team, $500 to the person that invited the inviter, and $250 to who invited them. The tiered award system proved effective in growing a large team quickly. No details were yet available on the final size of the winning team.

You can view the locations of all the balloons on this GoogleMaps page.

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