A test version of the service was launched in November 2005. Mechanical Turk matches individuals with enterprises that need to have simple tasks performed for a fee that starts at a few cents.
"We are creating this marketplace of work and workers," said Jeff Barr, web services evangelist with Amazon. "Now you can incorporate human intelligence on a large-scale basis in your work."
Individual users, for instance, are asked to determine the elements of a photograph, or fill out a simple survey.
Amazon created the service to allow it to perform tasks that it could not automate on the principle that humans are better at such tasks than computers. Amazon refers to the service as "artificial artificial" intelligence.
The service is named after an eighteenth century device called The Turk which was promoted as an automated chess machine, but which in reality had a person hidden inside who was playing the game. The 'automaton' famously beat Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
Amazon charges a 10 per cent fee over the sum that the company pays to have the tasks performed.
The e-commerce giant has made the service available as an open platform, attracting a transcription service that types out podcasts and a picture editing service.
The transcription service charges 42 cents for each minute of audio, the photo service $1 per picture.
Amazon plans to expand the features in the near future to offer support for tasks that cannot be performed through a browser.
Users will also be able to set deadlines for when a task has to be completed, allowing the service to autonomously raise the reward for a task as the deadline approaches. Users will be able request certain capabilities or certifications.
The online store has had interest from several large enterprises, according to Barr, including an insurance provider seeking to compare scanned versions of forms and documents.
Barr was unable to provide information on the number of individuals that provide services through Mechanical Turk.
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