FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Using Games to Teach Computers to See

There's a world of difference between looking at something and seeing it. A computer with a video camera, for instance, can obtain an image of an object, but doesn't have a deep enough understanding of what that object is to identify it, or relate it to something else ("bigger than a breadbox"). Humans, however, have developed a lifetime of experiences to be able to put most objects they encounter into context.

The only way to help computers "see," therefore, is to program them with enough background knowledge so that they can identify objects correctly on sight. But this is harder than it sounds, as it involves massive amounts of time.

Enter Peekaboom, an online game where players try to get others to guess the identity of objects by gradually revealing their shape; the first player to correctly identify the object wins. A graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University wrote the program with an interesting side effect. As players play, they are also programming a computer to identify the objects featured in the game.

Aside from aiding in computer science research, Peekaboom has reportedly become very popular since it was introduced about a month ago. The game is open to all.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, unmediated