Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Opens Up to the Masses

7/31/08Follow @gthuang

Yesterday Amazon announced it has created a Web interface that makes its “Mechanical Turk” service easier for businesses to use. Until now, companies needed software coding expertise to set up and manage the service, whereby anonymous Web users can sign up to perform small tasks for small payments. In Boston, Wade recently wrote about one company that uses the service, Needham, MA-based Mobicious, to screen photos submitted to its SnapMyLife mobile phone application.

Launched in late 2005, Amazon Mechanical Turk aggregates so-called “human intelligence tasks” that are hard for computers but easy for people, like recognizing objects in photos, judging whether a photo is offensive, or identifying actors in DVDs. The name comes from the 18th-century chess-playing machine called The Turk: it plays on the fact that the “machine” was actually an elaborate hoax operated by a person inside.

It’s a pretty interesting idea, and now a much broader range of companies can potentially use it. ZDNet has a nice piece explaining what business users can do with it, and showing the new interface that attempts to take the service “beyond the geek chic crowd.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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