Aaron Koblin is an American tech-design prodigy who gave a TED talk in his 20s and now has an amazing job with Google. So why was he paying people 2 cents a pop to draw pictures of sheep on computers? I’ll let him explain in his own words.
“The Sheep Market is a collection of 10,000 hand-drawn sheep from online workers collected through the Mechanical Turk. The Mechanical Turk is a web service created by Amazon to provide “artificial artificial intelligence,” now known more commonly as “crowdsourcing.” I was immediately intrigued by the concept of using thousands of idle brains, and have long been impressed by projects like SETI@home, which use idle CPU time on people’s computers to tackle problems too big for a single machine or cluster. This however, was different; these aren’t idle boxes, these are people. I wanted to visualize this and think about this kind of system, which will inevitably become more common.” (source)
Koblin created a tool for recording drawings and posted the tool online paying $.02 (USD) for each worker’s sheep. He was able to view, approve, and reject each sheep (662 drawings didn’t meet “sheep-like” criteria). Finally, he gathered all 10,000 sheep into a matrix on a website, which he describes as “a market place for inspecting and collecting the individual sheep.”
The resulting artwork has been exhibited in Spain, Japan, the US, the Netherlands and Australia. You can examine it at the macro and micro level (even see how each sheep was drawn) at the Sheep Market website and see many more projects at Koblin’s own site.