Google Image Labeler

Food For Thought…

How much work do you think would be involved if a company was to set forth the goal of labeling every single image on the Internet? I can guess that you would say this is a very high goal with an unbelievable amount of work involved, and I would have to agree with you 100%. Now, with a task this massive, how could any company possibly pull it off? You would not only need a company that consisted of thousands of employees, but the entire company would have to devote their lives to this new project in order to expect any reasonable amount of results within a good time-frame. That’s where Google comes in, as usual, with a simplistic, yet extremely powerful solution… Let the general public participate and have a little fun while they are at it…

Who would have guessed it, Google has created an online game out of image labeling. Anyone may participate, at any time they wish, for as long as they wish. A single game takes exactly 2 minutes where you will be presented with random images from the Internet. Your goal for the game is to type in as many words as you can to describe the images that you see. You not only score points for the amount of words that you enter, but you also score higher point values for more descriptive text.

For example, if you launch the game and are presented with a simple picture of an apple tree, you could type in single words like apple, tree, plant, etc… But you will score even more points if you type in something more descriptive like apple tree, apple orchard, red apples, etc… You get the idea?.. Good, now here is where the competition comes in…

At the very start of the game Google will partner you up with a random person, and it is only your combined effort that will end up getting scored, not just your own. The point of all this is to make the image labels more relevant by matching identical descriptions written by two random people. So, if both you and your partner typed in apple orchard then you will get a good score. If for some reason, you and your partner are not able to match any labels within the time limit, then you will both score zero points.

Thousands of Internet users can spend a relatively small amount of time. Each user is only working on a simple task, that in the end can accomplish an impressive goal.

This concept is not completely new. Various projects utilizing an open-source technology known as distributed computing have been taking advantage of small amounts of processing power on thousands of computers for years. They do this by running a very sophisticated screen saver on each computer. This screen saver can crunch some serious numbers while you are not even using your computer.

Here is some background on distributed computing:

Each computer that is setup calculates a small piece of a large mathematical puzzle. As each piece of the puzzle is completed, the results are sent back to a main computer that can fit all the pieces together into a massive equation. This equation is so complex that it would normally take a single computer years to calculate the answer, no matter how many Gigahertz it had. This technology is mainly used by scientists for the massive number crunching ability, and it has already advanced scientific research to a point that was never before possible

SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data.”

“On April 27th 2007, the Screensaver Project finally came to a close. The project, developed with the National Foundation for Cancer Research has run for six years and has at various times been funded by Intel, Microsoft and by IBM, but was chiefly a collaboration with United Devices Inc of Austin Texas. It has been an enormous success, involving over 3.5 million personal computers in more than 200 countries. Only the SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] project has had more participants, but none has involved as much data transmission as this research.”

Distributed.net is running various projects trying to see how long it takes to break cryptographic code technologies. A few prises have been offered from RSA Labs to anyone who can crack their “unbreakable” government-endorsed data encryption standards such as RC5 and RSA factoring.

OK now, back to Google and the Image Labeler game:

Although these projects are not necessarily a game, you can see they share the same philosophy that the image labeler game was built on, and I have always respected the way that Google accomplishes goals with such a simplistic solution. This one really blew me away though, I mean, the Google Image Labeler is not nearly the first online game, or the prettiest, but it is one of the few out there where people can actually accomplish something outside of the game they are playing. In the end we will all benefit by a much more relevant image search on Google.

If you would like to try Google’s game out, you can visit the Image Labeler website and select to either Begin as Guest or fill in your own name. After a short wait, you will be partnered up with a random other person and the game will launch. Good luck to you, just keep in mind that it’s more productive than solitaire!

About the author

RJ Ponzio

RJ founded Shore Web Tech LLC in 2011. The mission of Shore Web Tech (SWT) is to help small and medium local businesses take advantage of today's affordable technology solutions. RJ currently holds Google's "AdWords Qualified Individual" certification.

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