Luis von Ahn builds systems that combine humans and computers to solve large-scale problems that neither can solve alone.
Louis von Ahn is an associate professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and he's at the forefront of the crowdsourcing craze. His work takes advantage of the evergrowing Web-connected population to acheive collaboration in unprecedented numbers. His projects aim to leverage the crowd for human good. His company reCAPTCHA, sold to Google in 2009, digitizes human knowledge (books), one word at a time. His new project is Duolingo, which aims to get 100 million people translating the Web in every major language.
“Before the Internet, coordinating more than 100,000 people, let alone paying them, was essentially impossible. But now with the Internet, I’ve just shown you a project where we’ve gotten 750 million people to help us digitize human knowledge.”
“Every time you buy tickets on Ticketmaster, you help to digitize a book.”
“The current business model for language education is the student pays — in particular, the student pays Rosetta Stone $500. The problem with this business model is that 95 percent of the world’s population doesn’t have $500.”
“The question that motivates my research is, if we can put a man on the Moon with 100,000 [people], what can we do with 100 million?”