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Google-backed robot overlords take over supervision of human workers

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Robot-supervised humans will be rented out at $5 per hour by a new Google-funded service called Humanoid.

We think robots will work for us? Think again. It might be more likely we’ll be working for the robot. Among all the job takeovers robots will make in the next 15 years (by 2025 robots will take over nearly half of all U.S. jobs) get ready to have them as our supervisors. Because it’s already begun.

A new supervising service called Humanoid launched today, backed by funding from Google Ventures. Humanoid will rent out armies of humans (they have 20,000 workers already signed up to start) for $4.99 per hour to develop software, supervised by an algorithm.

Humanoid sprung from another startup, SpeakerText, which uses Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing and automation to transcribe videos. The founders realized that for every $1 they spent on crowdsourcing, they spent $2 to clean up common human errors. This is the downfall of crowdsourcing, which uses an anonymous, widely distributed workforce. Even hiring cheap intern labor did not help solve the failing business model.

So the founders of SpeakerText wrote up code for a management tool to oversee its transcribers. This then provided the foundation for Humanoid.

The first part of the supervision is actually human-based. Human workers review each other’s work. Then the supervising bot analyzes the accuracy of completed tasks and indicators of fatigue. And the system is flexible, providing more attention to new workers, and less as they gain experience. If someone is continually failing the bot boss passes the task on to a more competent worker.

Quality assurance is a widespread problem among crowdsourcing outlets like Mechanical Turk as well as remote staffing outlets like oDesk or Elance. Humanoid plans to solve this with its automated supervision. While it’s keeping SpeakerText within its offerings, its main focus will be software development.

[via TechCrunch]

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Christie Nicholson

Contributing Writer

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American's podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She has spoken at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Space Studies Board and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure