Monday, February 15, 2010

Microsoft develops a game to improve clipart tagging

Microsoft has over 150,000 clip art and images for their online Office suite. Tagging these images has posed a problem for the company. The job is generally carried out by a few individuals who, to the best of their ability, laboriously tag each of these images with some keywords to make it searchable. Regardless of how diligently they do their work, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they won’t have thought of every word possible to describe an image. This meant poorer search results.


In the hope of rectifying this Microsoft has come up with a game that tries to harness the collective word-power of Internet users in tagging their huge database of clipart images. In the game, named TAGR, a player is asked to tag an image with as many keywords he or she can conjure up within a period of 3 minutes. Each image comes with a set of starter keywords that the player cannot use, which makes the game interesting and difficult at the same time. The player is awarded points based on how many other people have used the same word.

Getting users involved through games and with promises of featuring their names on online scoreboards is a new tactic Microsoft has started employing. Recently the Redmond guys created another game to encourage uninitiated Microsoft Office users to explore and learn new Office skills.


In TAGR, a player can tag as many images he or she wants within the 3 minutes. If they feel stuck, they can move on to the next image. The game ends at the end of 3 minutes and the total score is calculated.

The game is actually quite hard to score because the starter keywords, the ones which you are not allowed to use, already describes the image pretty accurately. After that you have to come up with alternative words and description which is a test to your vocabulary. But the frustrating part is even if your keywords are clever you might not score off them because scoring depends on how many other people were clever enough to think of the same word. TAGR can get addicting at times.

It’s not the first time anybody has tried to involve the public in the form of a game to make up for their lack of manpower. Galaxy Zoo has been doing it to tag photograph of galaxies clicked by the Hubble telescope. If human labor is abundant, sometimes machines are not. There are plenty of distributed computing projects and games that uses spare CPU cycles of millions of home computers to crunch numbers for various scientific research projects. If you haven't taken part in any of them, I suggest you do it – as a community service, in the name of science.

1 comment:

  1. yeah right. google had this ages before. and even then im sure it's been somewhere before lol..


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