The prize is $40,000, and it goes to the first person or group to determine the locations of 10 red balloons that can be anywhere in the continental United States.
The apparent frivolity of the challenge is only on the surface. This is not a game invented by some eccentric Web Midas. The contest, which takes place on Dec. 5, is being sponsored by Darpa, the Pentagon’s research agency.
The goal is to learn more about social behavior in computer networks and how large computer-connected teams use their resources and connections to compete.
There is also an invention being celebrated. Peter Lee, a computer scientist and one of the Darpa directors organizing the contest, said Dec. 5 would be the 40th anniversary of the day when the first four nodes of the Arpanet — the experimental military-sponsored computer network that was the forerunner of today’s Internet — were connected…
Dr. Lee said he was not certain what to expect in the tactics that teams might use to track down the balloons, which will be visible from public roadways for a single day. Some groups are developing software applications. Dr. Lee said he also expected large teams of spotters and even the possibility that some groups might use subterfuge like disseminating false information…
Contestants from anywhere in the world may participate in this contest, he said, and registration will stay open until the contest begins.
UPDATED: A group from MIT won. Why am I not surprised?