Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Games Google Well - Luis von Ahn and Google Image Labeler

The amusing named "" notes that there are powerful reasons why Google Image Labeler is designed to be a game. But first, a bit of background.

Google Image Labeler appears to be based on the ESP Game developed by Professor Luis von Ahn of CMU. An anonymous commenter pointed to the video of Luis von Ahn's tech talk at Google on July 26, 2006.

The tech talk was fascinating, both because there was no hint in it that Google was about to announce something based on von Ahn's work -- the talk is all about his previously published games -- and for the actual thought-provoking content, which gives a lot of background on the design of this kind of game, and in general, the idea of harnessing humans to work as program components via games....

At about 7 minutes into the talk, [von Ahn] makes a staggering assertion about the amount of time spent on casual games: in 2003, 9 billion hours were spent playing solitaire. By comparison, it took only 7 million human hours (6.8 hours of solitaire) to build the Empire State Building, and only 20 million human hours (less than a day of solitaire) to build the Panama Canal....

[H]e talks about how games can be used to harness some of this unused processing power, and goes specifically into how they can be used for labeling images.

Or doing other stuff.


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