Monday, 5 February 2007

Amateurs brain power to the rescue

This post is about the disappearance at sea and search of James Gray (a computer scientist who received the Turing Award in 1998)

From the wikipedia article:

After a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands near San Francisco to scatter his mother's ashes, his 40-foot yacht was reported missing on Sunday, January 28, 2007. The Coast Guard searched for four days using a C-130 plane, helicopter and patrol boats but found no sign of the vessel.

On February 1, 2007, the DigitalGlobe satellite did a scan of the area, generating thousands of images.The images were posted to Amazon Mechanical Turk in order to distribute the work of searching through them, in hopes of spotting his boat. View the HITs for more details.

What I find interesting here is the use of amateurs and web users to scan through huge amounts of pictures.

It's well known the computer can't match the brain for shapes recognition. I find the initiative of this "HIT" (Human Intelligence Task) very interesting since you don't need to be a professional to actually contribute to an important research task.

The HIT page for the search of James Gray (unfortunately the search area was partly clouded)

The HIT of Amazon (mechanical turk) Home page with others projects: and a wikipedia article about it.

EDIT 8 Feb 07:

The Blog Smart Mobs has now an interesting article on the subject.

Collective intelligence and satellite technology in the search for Jim Gray

No comments: