July 16, 2024

A Spoonful of Sugar

Here’s a brilliant idea. A group at Carnegie Mellon University has created The ESP Game, in which a pair of strangers, shown a photographic image, are each asked to guess the single word that the other will use to characterize the image. Get it right and you score valuable points. For an extra challenge, sometimes there are “taboo words” that you aren’t allowed to use. Players report that the game is semi-addictive.

The brilliant part is that the game “tricks” its players into doing an important and incredibly time-consuming job. By playing the game, you’re helping to build a giant index that associates each image on the internet with a set of words that describe it. It’s well known that indexing and searching a set of images requires the time-consuming manual step of assigning descriptive words to each image. Labeling all of the images on the internet is an enormous amount of work. When you play the ESP Game, you’re shown images randomly chosen from the internet. You’re doing the time-consuming manual work to index the whole internet’s images – and enjoying it! So far the group has collected over two million labels.


  1. I fixed the link. Thanks, Aaron.

  2. You used curly quotes instead of straight ones for the href.

  3. Your link is broken.