Human cycles not wasted

Luis von Ahn creates simple games that have people solve problems that computers can’t (Google video). Every time you play a game of Taboo, the hinter generates associations between words and the guesser, by guessing the correct word, is verifying the quality of those associations. By isolating players via the web and collecting their responses, on online version of Taboo could generate mountains of data that help computers associate words with other words. Luis took this idea and created several games that use humans to associate words with images, objects within images with words, even words with what they mean… My favorite bit is that, given the same input (eg. a card in Taboo), he gets more good data by recording the actions of all human players and using them against other live players or even other recordings. Eg. Jim and Jane play a game. When Mike comes along, the computer can use Jane’s recorded actions as Mike’s partner. If Steve and Sue also played, the computer could even go back and match Steve’s recording against Jane’s and Jim’s against Sue’s, generating even more data without any human involvement. These “zero player” games wouldn’t give you new associations, but could aid in ranking them.

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