EECS faculty member and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, CSAIL, principal investigator Rob Miller and EECS grad student Michael Bernstein--lead and member, respectively of CSAIL's User Interface Design Group, recently presented a paper describing the free-standing software application they named Soylent at the Association for Computing Machinery's 23rd symposium. The paper won best student paper prize.
As reported in the MIT News Office Oct. 27, 2010 article: "Soylent is a program that distributes responsibility for editing text to hundreds of people in such a way that highly reliable results can be culled in as little as 20 minutes." The Soylent Project goes by the tagline "A word processor with a crowd inside." In a nutshell Soylent is a crowd-powered interface: one that embeds workers from Mechanical Turk into Microsoft Word. The beauty of this application is that it is designed to improve on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, an internet marketplace service, developed in 2005, and designed to provide access to a large number of workers ('turkers') to perform scalable tasks for very modest fees.
The best-paper prize went to VizWiz, a cell-phone application that enables blind people to snap photographs and, within a minute or so, receive audible descriptions of the objects depicted. VizWiz's lead author, Jeffrey Bigham, an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, was a visiting professor at CSAIL last fall.
MIT News Office, Oct. 27, 2010, Larry Hardesty "Programming crowds. With the Web, people worldwide can work on distributed tasks. But getting reliable results requires algorithms that specify workflow between people, not transistors."