Amazon just put out a really interesting new feature that they are calling the Amazon Mechanical Turk. It’s named after a famous fake mechanical man from the 1800’s that played chess against (and defeated!) both Benjamin Franklin and Napolean Bonaparte.
Basically, they are leveraging the fact that humans are the best pattern recognition machines coming or going, and are paying small amounts for identification of object that computers just have a hard time with. Show a computer two pictures, and ask “Which one is the better picture of this Starbucks?” and you’ll be waiting a long time…whereas, a human can do that in less than a second. This gives Amazon the ability to create large amounts of metadata that they can then leverage in other ways.
All in all, it’s brilliant. The execution is somewhat clumsy, but it’s a different attempt at capturing distributed information generation (ie wikipedia et al). I adore their tagline though: “Artificial artificial intelligence” 🙂