Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Amazon Mechanical Turk

How cool is this idea? Ok.. let me explain. There are problems that are extremely difficult for computers and software to solve, yet are almost effortless for humans to do. This fact makes building software quite difficult at times. Amazon has facilated a service called the Amazon Mechanical Turk that connects regular people like you and I to software systems.

So as an example say I'm building a piece of software that for some reason sorts photos into two sets, the first is photos with cars in them and the other is for photos with no cars in them. Determining if there is a car in a photo is pretty easy for you and I but crazy hard for a computer. So the software sends out the photo to the amazon service where some person somewhere determines if there is a car in it. This piece of data "Is there a car in the photo? Yes/No" is sent back to the software automaically and the problem is solved.

The human brains on the Amazon side of the equation are all compensated and eventually will be rated for the quality of their work, etc.

Essentially the service enables humans to become part of active working software. If this becomes big enough and commoditized enough I can see a piece of software being 50%-80% run by human brains instead of CPU's. How cool would that be?

At the moment, this is cool for you and I since we can apply to the service and get paid to solve simple problems in our spare time.

One final note, if you comment on this blog you will see the word jumble thing at the bottom to validate yourself. This is an example of a problem that is easy for a human but really hard for a computer. That's precicely why it exists. The interesing thing is that a spammer could concievably use Amazons service to counter this security measure. And so the loop is connected yet again.

1 comment:

bblluueee said...

Very cool.