Oh, Interwebs, you have not failed me with this most recent discovery: What the Herp?
It is not, thankfully, a site dedicated to the venereal diseases rampant at Rutgers university, but rather an ingenious way to get AI and hoomins to work together to create something seriously cool and useful.
The idea behind the What the Herp? platform is simple: the site needs help by real live people to go through images and draw a little box around a reptile or amphibian. That's it. Nothing else is needed from the human volunteers to help get this thing working. The ultimate goal is to have 250+ images per critter so a database with all of these image files can be a resource for people curious about the types of reptiles and amphibians they come across.
It reminds me of the early days of CAPTCHA and the Project Gutenberg-esque things they would have people go through in order to verify a person was buying concert tickets. It was a two-fold win-win sort of process, as things that were designed to be purchased by people and not bots were actually able to bought by people (and not bots buying up quantities of scarce commodities) and people used their human vision and reasoning skills to determine the proper words and numbers of digitized materials. As these were digitized manually, they may have had some Optical Character Recognition (OCR) snafus that the computers just couldn't manage to decipher, but these things were often obvious -- if not annoying when trying to race against the timer counting down on Ticketmaster to buy your mid-90s alternative band concert tickets. But the What the Herp? platform acts in much the same way. It uses humans to go through photos of snakes, frogs, and lizards to get a little blue box drawn around them, so the computer can get better at determining the background from the actual living creature.
It's not just that the little critters, or not so little in the case of some of these animals, is that they have excellent camoflauge. It is hard for people to make them out, even with all our rods and cones. For AI, determining the grassy backdrop the reptile is hiding in, however, is a little more tricky.
I stated using the platform Monday, and have set myself a calendar reminder to draw a box around a reptile or two a day. It's a very rewarding little digital interlude in the day, and pairs nicely with a coffee break. Dark roast and toads go surprisingly well together. I get no monetary rewards from this exercise, but I like knowing that someday if I take a photo of a snake or frog, and want to know what it is, or more likely whether it will kill me, that I've helped a program determine what the thing is.