May 24, 2008

Gwap... Mechanical Turk?

Nicholas Carr blogged about Gwap, a week ago : “_a new site was launched this week, by Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, that aims to entice humans into playing simple games that will help computers get smarter. The site, called Gwap (an acronym for “games with a purpose”), is the brainchild of computer scientist Luis von Ahn (who also cofathered the Captcha). “We have games that can help improve Internet image and audio searches, enhance artificial intelligence and teach computers to see,” he explains. “But that shouldn’t matter to the players because it turns out these games are super fun._”

This is a very interesting concept. It makes me think of the Mechanical Turk, one of Amazon Web Services.


In fact, Nicholas addresses it later in the post: “The challenge, of course, is to figure out a way to get people to do these kinds of routine chores - to work for the machine. (Tagging pictures gets old fast.) Amazon’s Mechanical Turk uses small payments to get people to contribute their time to extending computer intelligence. Von Ahn’s Gwap uses the pleasure of gaming as a lure.”

The Mechanical Turk allows Amazon’s customers (called Requesters) to “hire” people (Providers) to complete small task (HITs, or Human Intelligence Tasks) for small amounts of money. Interestingly, it seems that part of the “turkers” provide their service for fun, rather than for the (small) money. Requesters can ask that Workers fulfill Qualifications before engaging a task, and they can set up a test in order to verify the Qualification.

To be precise, the Mechanical Turk is all about crowdsourcing, while Gwap is all about teaching computers to do things that today humans are better at.

I’m thinking of creative ways to improve the Mechanical Turk… Today, the service isn’t really big, and there is still a big barrier for adoption by the mass of “small” Requesters. What about… something related to Second Life? Or other things? Suggestions?