Friday, May 16, 2008

Gwap: Games With a Purpose

The Interwebs have been so awesome lately, I honestly didn't know what to write up first. I decided to do this one today because if I disappear for 5 weeks in a gaming frenzy, you'll know what happened.

Gwap is a game site whose acronym stands for "Games With A Purpose." The purpose in question is to make computers more intelligent while you have fun. Gwap launched on Tuesday, and thus endeth any of hope of productivity for me this year. It's that good.

So far there are five games you can play:
  1. ESP Game: You and a partner describe an image. When you come up with matching words, you get points.
  2. Tag a Tune: You and a partner describe a tune in words, and decide if you're listening to the same thing or not. If you're right, you get points.
  3. Verbosity: Kind of like taboo. You and a partner alternate between guesser and describer. You are given a word and asked to fill in blanks (such as the word is a kind of [blank], related to [blank], opposite of [blank]).
  4. Squigl: Trace an object, if your trace matches your partner's, you win points.
  5. Matchin: Given two photos, pick the one that you like best. If it matches what your partner likes, you win points.
Verbosity is my favorite. When you reach 1000 points you hear a trumpet fanfare. When the time is running out you hear the metronome tick down. It's fun to come up with unusual combinations and see if the idea is transmitted. I mean, sure, when faced with "talk is [blank]" you can fill in communication or speech. But it's much more fun to complete with "cheap." By itself that's a confusing, misleading clue, but after a long line of synonyms it can clinch a win.

For example, during a round I had to describe "crowd." I had already written that it was a gathering, it looked like many people, and was often near fights. One of the few things had yet to complete was, "it's a kind of [blank]." Nothing obvious came to mind, but then I thought of "sourcing." My geeky computer game partner got it right away.

Speaking of which, this is crowdsourcing at its best. For the ESP game, the more people tag an image with the same words, the more confident the computer is about what is in that image. Which means are able to have more accurate image search engines, which means everybody wins. I love it. The best part is, no one is stuck with the boring repetitive task of tagging every image ever (which wouldn't work really anyway) — instead, tagging comes organically from game play.

I wonder how good they will be at filtering out unrelated, but frequent words that are entered as messages from partner to partner (such as "hurry" "up" "you" "slow" "turtle."). The creators also have started sketches of a social networking/profile/chat component to the site (meh), which could cut down on messages-via-guesses.

I couldn't get through to tag-a-tune, there are always too many people playing it. The other games are also fun though.

This site is the pièce de résistance of Carnegie Mellon mastermind and chief engineer Mike Crawford, talented graphic designer Ryan Staake, and illustrious code peons Mike Brotzman, Severin Hacker, Edith Law, Bryant Lee, Luis von Ahn, and Edison Tan. These fine folks previously brought us the Google Image Labeler, Peekaboom and reCAPTCHA, all which would be fine topics for their own Today on the Interwebs posts.

Grade: A++.(PS: I'm not normally one for overly dramatic political cheap shots, but I couldn't help this picture. It was just too easy. From MagnetBox, Waxy)

No comments: