Google Takes On ESP Game, But Needs Some Marketing Help

from the giving-credit-where-credit-is-due? dept

A few years ago, one of the researchers behind the idea of captchas (the little distorted word images you often have to decipher to open accounts or post comments on sites) took his idea of human powered computing a step further creating the ESP Game. It pairs up two anonymous individuals and shows them an image. Each side has to come up with words to describe the image, trying to match one of the words the other side has come up with. You get points if you match what the other person wrote (hence "ESP"). The end result is the researcher gets very accurate labels of a large database of photos -- without having to pay anyone for the labor. The game has been a huge hit, continuing to stay popular for years, allowing the researcher, Luis von Ahn, to build just such a powerful database of images with descriptive words. von Ahn has since gone on and created other games as well, all with the same type of goal: getting free labor by getting people to play games and not even realize they're providing free labor.

A little over a month ago, von Ahn gave a very entertaining talk on the Google campus. In that talk, he mentioned that if you could just hook his game up to Google images, and get 5,000 simultaneous players, every image in Google's index would be labeled in two months. That's not that many people and that's not long at all. So, it's no surprise that it only took a month for someone from Google (in that room, we assume) to build their very own version of the ESP Game -- though they don't seem to credit Luis von Ahn anywhere. It's nearly an identical clone, so it's not so surprising that it's just as addictive as the ESP Game. There's just one issue. They've decided to call it Google Image Labeler -- which doesn't quite make you want to rush over. The ESP Game at least pretends to be about ESP and makes it look fun. The Google version doesn't seem to try to play up the fun aspect at all. It may very well get plenty of users, and may make Google's image search much more powerful in just a couple of months (which would be great), but they should have at least allowed someone from marketing to jazz up the game aspect of it a bit. Update: As noted in the comments it appears Google licensed the game from von Ahn, which is pretty much what we expected. Though, we're still surprised with how they're marketing the "game."

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2006 @ 7:42pm

    Google blew it

    Google blew it with this one. I tried it, saw dozens of images of dialogs, factory floors, charts, generic people. What are they thinking? The vast majority of these images are the crap that clutter up image searches. So now you have people matching very generic terms to very generic images... and that's supposed to improve things somehow? I don't see it happening unless they maintain a database of common and generic terms and invalidate any matches that fall in it.

    Google needs to show random people a page of images and the search terms that brought them up and let the people select the ones that best match. Either that or match people with specific knowledge to the appropriate images so they can apply specific terms.

    Of course, you'd think google could narrow that a bit themselves by mining what images people select when they search to begin with.

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