Army’s virtual recruiter deploys to social media

(Tom Sowa)   The U.S. Army’s virtual online recruiter, Sergeant Star, is being prepped for more advanced missions, his Spokane creators announced Wednesday.

First launched by Spokane tech firm Next IT Corp. in mid-2006, the tool is a virtual information agent at, the main site used to recruit soldiers.

Like similar tools sold to Alaska Airlines or Boeing Employees Credit Union, the Army’s virtual guide answers online questions and sends links to key information. It gives text or audio versions of answers.

Next IT spokeswoman Jennifer Snell said the tool is adding the ability to “respond” to questions sent by mobile phones, text messages or at a Sergeant Star Facebook page.

Snell said the Facebook page and the other options should become available over the next quarter.

A key goal, said Snell, is the ability to reach more people communicating through mobile devices and on social network sites.

In addition, Next IT will help make the online guide more animated, through state-of-the-art animation techniques.

The Sergeant Star program is programmed for interaction with text messaging shorthand, Snell said.

That means it understands shortcuts — like “b/c” for because — but Sergeant Star won’t use text slang or unusual abbreviations in text replies, Snell added.

“His messages will be shorter, in the simple text language,” she said.

Next IT, based in downtown Spokane, has about 120 workers.

Snell said the GoArmy account is just one of several major contracts Next IT has.

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