Friday, December 7, 2012
'Your next boss could be a computer!'
The first fully automatic computer system that can delegate tasks to human workers via crowd-sourcing has been developed by a US-based scientist.
Daniel Barowy, a computer scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has created 'AutoMan' that delegates tricky problems to human workers through crowd-sourcing platforms such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
"I'd rather have a computer as my boss than a jerk," says Barowy.
Artificial intelligence is improving all the time, but computers still struggle to complete certain tasks that are easy for us, such as quickly reading a car's license plate or translating a joke, the 'New Scientist' reported.
To get round this, people can post such tasks on platforms like Mechanical Turk for others to complete. Barowy wanted to automate this process - and AutoMan was born.
"We think of it as a new kind of computing. It changes the kind of things you can do," said Barowy.
Barowy and colleagues designed AutoMan to send out jobs, manage workers, accept or reject work and make payments.
The quality guarantee is the most important contribution of the work, says Barowy.
"You're replacing people's bosses with a computer.
Without a mechanism for addressing the quality of worker output, full automation is not possible," he said.
Unlike existing crowd sourcing platforms, AutoMan doesn't attempt to predict the reliability of its workers based on their previous performance.
Instead, if it is not sure it has the correct answer, it keeps on posting the same job, upping the fee each time, until it is confident that it does.
"One way to think about it is that it saves the interesting parts, the creative parts, or the fun parts for people. It's really the best of both worlds. You have the computer doing the grunt work," says Barowy.
AutoMan could be used by developers of apps like VizWiz, in which blind people take a photo of their surroundings and receive a description of the scene.
The algorithm could be incorporated into the app, sending the photos to crowd-workers, choosing the correct descriptions and sending them back to the app's user, the report said.
AutoMan will be given a budget by the app developer and be programmed to keep costs down. Quicker - or higher quality - responses will cost more but AutoMan will manage all of this automatically, researchers said.