Rainy Day: Fun with Google Image Labeler

It's raining outside and you are bored out of your mind. What do you do? You could read a book and listen to classical music, but you don't have the motivation. So how about something new?

Google has the answer and it's a new toy! Ok, well... not a new toy, but a beta toy. It has been placed in public testing for more than a few months now. They have come up with a way to implement a game into their Image Search product. As web content writers struggle to write meaningful descriptions in alt attributes, Google Image Labeler is taking a new step. This involves having "players" feed data keywords into their engine while having fun. When two players make a keyword match, this is considered for a search keyword. The stronger phrases or words will obviously end up on top of the list for each picture. It is unclear what the algorithm will really do, but it is interesting to speculate.

Playing the game. The idea is that you sign in with your regular gmail account or stay as an "anonymous guest" to play this game. You start with the "begin as 'user'" button and you are matched with another online player within a few seconds. Play starts and you are both shown the same image. You and your partner will enter guesses until you match each other. For each match, you and your partner will collect 100 points (not worth anything as a guest or a registered user, but the registered user can keep track of the number of matches). You get 90 seconds total to match as many labels as you can. After each round, if you are good enough, you will appear towards the top of the list of the top pairs. Again, if you sign in, you will be able to keep track of how many matches you have made (via your score divided by 100). Also, you will be able to take a shot at the top five All-time Top Contributors list. At this point, you need to make over 31,000 matches (3,100,000 points) to take the number one spot. And the points still mean nothing.

Player tips:

  1. More guesses: If play has halted after you have guessed once and your partner has guessed more than 4, you probabaly need to start guessing more labels. You will never match at that rate.
  2. Simple words/terms first: Unfortunately, phrases are more descriptive and useful for the search engine, but simple word guesses win the game.
  3. Use the zoom button: If you have problems seeing the image on a large resolution screen, use the zoom in button at the beginning.
  4. Use the pass button: If an image appears broken you should pass. Also, if play is going nowhere with no guesses, you should probably pass, also. A good rule of thumb is 30 to 45 seconds per picture maximum.
  5. Learn from your partner: Show your partner's answers at the end of the game. See what they are thinking. It will most likely help you match better in a future round.
  6. Learn from the pictures: View the images that are matched at the end of the game, but took a large amount of time to match. If the link is working, you will be able to understand the context of the photo and be able to come up with a better match.


Update 4/7/08

After revisiting the Image Labeler, it appears that Google has made a few changes. It is still in beta, so it's still evolving. Instead of 100 points per keyword match, they have implemented a weighted system: points vary on a scale between 50 and 150. If the keyword matches are common terms or guessed more often, you will recieve fewer points. If you guess and match more unique terms/phrases, you will be rewarded with more points. Google has increased the time limit to two minutes from the previous 90 seconds.