Intuition for play and purpose

Luis Von Ahn, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University is putting the collective intelligence of internet users to good use, and he’s doing it in a resonant way: games. Von Ahn devised two easy online games, The ESP Game and Phetch that put active users together in an internet version of charades. One person sees a photo and tries to give clues for the others to go out and find it.

Through these games, Von Ahn is giving people a fun way to solve a problem that cannot be solved by computers yet, called “human computation.” The trick of these games is that descriptions for every image are logged–and stored as tags. The ESP site claims that every image on the web could be tagged in a matter of weeks should the game be played as much as other popular online games. And he very well could be on to something. During a speech at Google, Von Ahn pointed out the unharnessed potential of people playing games online….