Amazon just announced the start of it’s new Amazon Mechanical Turk program. As a software developer the mechanical turk allows you to let humans solve software problems a computer isn’t yet able to solve. Amazon itself offers some tasks - called human intelligence tasks (HIT) - where one can earn 3 cent for choosing the best photo of a company out of a list of pictures. This task is probably connected to amazons a9.com search engine: to provide shop photos for the yellow page entries, a9.com has sent trucks equipped with digital cameras to major US cities. By combining gps information and digital photos a9.com now has a large number of storefront pictures. The final task is to find out which of those pictures show a certain company best - a computer can’t do this, but for humans it’s a simple task.

Currently the mturk.com webpage is still under heavy load from slashdot.org and doesn’t work all right all the time, but I’m pretty sure that mturk will lead to some interesting new software. For software applications mturk.com is just another webservice, so we virtually get an interface to human intelligence.