Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Simplifies Automation
Amazon’s automated human intelligence service, Mechanical Turk, has become more useful to a general audience. To use the service in the past required advanced programming skills. Now Amazon has created an interface to bulk load tasks that require human eyes.
Mechanical Turk can help with data collection and correction. Many are already using the service for filtering out obscene photos/comments, or appropriately categorizing and tagging items. Most pay just a few pennies for the answers.
The site is equally catering itself to the workers. There seems to be plenty of interest in the work, called Human Intelligence Tasks, or HITS. I accidentally posted my test HIT, and received eight responses before I could take it offline.
One of the recent changes to Turk are the HIT templates that give requestors an example to start with. Then Amazon provides a comma-separated file to fill in with your data and re-upload. Previously this had to interface with your database via web services.
The name Mechanical Turk comes from an 18th century hoax. A chess-playing machine invented to impress a royal was later revealed to be controlled by a human. As such, Amazon calls its service “artificial artificial intelligence,” because HITs are automated, yet completed by a human.