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Education The Internet Entertainment Games Science

Games With A Purpose Help With Tasks That Tax Computers 61

Falkkin writes "Luis von Ahn and his team at Carnegie Mellon University have launched GWAP, a new web site for 'Games With A Purpose.' By playing these online games, humans help provide data for problems that are hard for computers to solve, such as computer vision and sound classification. Slashdot has previously covered other human computation projects by Dr. von Ahn, including the ESP Game and reCAPTCHA. The new web site contains a re-vamping of the ESP Game as well as four completely new games." (Falkkin also points to an AP story on GWAP and to coverage at the BBC.)
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Games With A Purpose Help With Tasks That Tax Computers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:30PM (#23409216)
    Entertainment is a purpose.
  • by cstdenis ( 1118589 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:33PM (#23409254)
    I was going to give it a try, but it requires registration and I really just can't be bothered to register.
    • I was going to give it a try, but it requires registration and I really just can't be bothered to register.

      Maybe they could make a game about registering then?
    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:44PM (#23410344) Homepage Journal

      I really just can't be bothered to register.
      Said cstdenis, login number 1118589.
    • by fbjon ( 692006 )
      There's actually an incentive: it's apparently a matchmaking service at the same time. You can set in your profile what your age etc. is, and also select what kind of people you'd prefer to play against. Sometimes there's an option to chat with your partner after the game, I assume if you get a high enough score. Not sure how it works, exactly, since I haven't tried it.
  • Everyone? benefits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dvice_null ( 981029 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:33PM (#23409258)
    "Everyone benefits! Now a search engine will have a better idea of what's in those images."

    What search engine? Is the information I provide to them free for anyone to use, or is it just for them?
  • by FrozenFOXX ( 1048276 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:45PM (#23409442)
    "You play the games. Computers get smarter. Everyone benefits!"

    Yeah, that's EXACTLY the kind of line I'd expect Skynet to use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Welcome to the Skynet SecurityCam matching game!

      To win, please select which of these pictures is Sarah Connor. Now!
  • Porn for Captcha? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:50PM (#23409512) Homepage Journal
    Isn't this similar to using [] porn to solve CAPTCHAs? Or how about the Google image Labeler []? And for a literary example, this is one part of the plot in Ender's Game, but not as obvious, and a more nefarious.

    Using a large amount of real intelligence can make some problems easier, if a human can do it much easier, and some amount of noise is acceptable in the output.
    • by Falkkin ( 97268 )
      It's not surprising this is similar to the Google Image Labeler since that's just a re-implementation of the ESP Game, which is also one of the games available on the GWAP site.
    • Yep. It's like image labler. Sunds better though
  • To play "Trace the picture of the doggy" or "The $10,000 Pyramid"

    I'm not knockin the interface, it's great, but if I went to any 12 year old it would bore them to tears after 1 minute, with them whining "Can we play another game?"

    Here's an idea. Give some OLPC's to kids in 3rd world countries. Teach them to read, then pay them $0.01 per problem they solve. Then sell your DB of solutions to Google for $0.03 a solution.
    • by Xtravar ( 725372 )
      But can you play GTA4 at work?

      Hell, if people were given the option of getting paid, even a minuscule amount, to play games at work...
  • I like Squigl (Score:4, Informative)

    by Falkkin ( 97268 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:51PM (#23409532) Homepage
    After playing with the site for a while, I especially like Squigl... basically you and a partner draw an outline around an object in an image. If you play, make sure you check the "auto-submit when done" button, it helps save precious time :)
  • ...they're just harvesting data from a lot of people.

    As far as I can see, this is not making computers smarter. That is, it's not helping to teach them how to do the tasks given novel situations in the future. It's simply using aggregate human interaction to do tasks that are poorly suited for computers to do still--CAPTCHAs and image recognition.

    This is just a way for the company to get hundreds (thousands?) of people to do menial tasks under the guise of having fun. Wouldn't it be better if we actually

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Entrinzikyl ( 715485 )
      This distributed work *is* being done so computers can apply your dog tags automatically to other images of dogs. This is just a 'fun' way of getting the massive amount of data needed to do things like that. I'll be impressed when computers are able to tag images without using anything learned from correctly tagged data to do so.
    • by PaintyThePirate ( 682047 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:08PM (#23409760) Homepage
      You missed the point. You can't just magically automate something like object recognition. You can, however, train filters on computers based on how humans identify objects in images.
    • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:58PM (#23411950) Homepage
      The author has an excellent Google Tech Talk where he describes exactly how these games help computers get smarter. Basically, language is a shared set of common knowledge that a single researcher cannot accurately recreate without interviewing everyone. The games are tools to do exactly that. They generate datasets for analysis, and for further game playing. For example, you might find yourself describing the word "preserve" and start with marking it the opposite of destroy, while the partner guesses "strawberry" and "raspberry".

      He's got lots of neat results from that system in the talk. [] Go watch it.
  • by MrCrassic ( 994046 ) <<deprecated> <at> <>> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:58PM (#23409630) Journal

    Isn't this initiative similar to that launched by Chris McKintrey and Pushpinder Singh, both of whom created databases where questions used to aid in trying to give robots personality?

    Didn't both of these projects fail for the same reason?

    I'm sure that Slashdot actually covered this story, but for those interested, the link is here. []

    • The difference between Von Ahn's work and that before it is quite simple: he dresses everything up as a game.

      Games are addictive, and this is why his projects (like the ESP Game) have continued, whereas others have faded away. It's not rocket/computer science, just a good bit of reasoning that creates very good results.
  • Never fails (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Geez, site has only been online a little while and already freakin' griefers have moved in. Last 3 games of ESP I played had dipshits that purposely gave answers that didn't even come close to describing the pictures. One idiot just kept guessing "YoMama". Fuckers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Geez, site has only been online a little while and already freakin' griefers have moved in. Last 3 games of ESP I played had dipshits that purposely gave answers that didn't even come close to describing the pictures. One idiot just kept guessing "YoMama". Fuckers.

      What did you expect. Games are entertainment. Some people's idea of entertainment is f*cking with the system.

      Only the naive YoMama! would expect YoMama to result in YoMama clean set of YoMama. The YoMama way YoMama you YoMama get YoMama resul

      • Yeah, GWAP seriously needs a way of voting out griefers. It's real fun sitting in a game for four minutes with a player that isn't there.
    • And there's already people out there testing ways around the system. Spelling out words in hints. The ESP game had a lot of wierd shit like people guessing the same sequence of words. I wonder if they've measured some sort of meme propagation for collusion like that.
  • OK, so I gave FoldIt a go (it's at It's based on the idea of using lots of people to do protein folding rather than automating it or giving the task to phDs. The main gameplay elements are two buttons, "shake" and "wiggle." You basically just move the strands around randomly, then push those two buttons until you hit an acceptable score. Maybe there's more depth to it, but that's about all I could surmise.

    Still pretty fun though, and it runs in Wine.

    My one piece of advice: make sure the passwo

    • OK, so the password works for the site, but if I try to post my problem (above), I get another "access denied" page.

      The "beta" tag, in this case, really is there for a reason.

    • The details which cause the problem are different, but the effect is the same. When you email support, do you get a form email back which suggests you try their broken password recovery procedure? There must be a template somewhere that people use to achieve this maximally annoying standard interface. The series of tubes folds back on itself to achieve this beowulf cluster-ah*m of a modern internets interface. Not just anyone could design this. There must be a distributed project capturing the wisdom o
      • I think the lesson we can draw from this is that it's fantastically easy to make bad user interfaces. The truly horrific thing in this case is that there is no support email that I can find, you have to do support requests on their forum, which is broken, too.

        It's a shame, really, because I was rather enjoying it.

  • How can the summary possibly fail to mention the hottest current GWAP, foldit? I swear to god I couldn't sleep last night because I was thinking of freaking protein chains. Fortunately, I soon after started thinking of freaking women, at which point I was able to create some protein chains of my own.
  • Luis von Ahn (Score:2, Interesting)

    Luis von Ahn has an interesting obsession with games and their possible beneficial effects on humanity - both on an individual basis and in the greater sense. If you want some more information about his methodology or ideas, you can watch his lecture on human computation: []

    As for von Ahn, I am currently studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon and I was lucky enough to have him as a professor (along with Godel prize winner Steven Rudich) f
  • Yeah, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cjb658 ( 1235986 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:28PM (#23412234) Journal
    ...are they fun?
    • ...are they fun?

      Actually they're surprisingly fun. It's taken up a couple hours of my time since reading this article yesterday.

      On a side note there is one game called ESP where you and a partner are each shown a picture. You have to guess words until you each have guessed the same word. Often there will be "taboo" words that you can't use. Checkout this screenshot of the image and what gwap felt were necessary taboo words. Screenshot []

  • With my new game, you'll each do part of my day job, starting with the TPS reports & moving up to fixing a hard bug on Saturday. Games that help with tasks which tax humans are the future.
  • Actually, as this story demonstrates, this is becoming true everywhere.

BLISS is ignorance.