Child labor or science education. You be the judge.
For just about ten years, between 1997 and 2006, the Mars Global Surveyor was in a perpetual state of free fall around the Red Planet. Its mission — snapping pics of the planet and taking laser altimeter and emission spectrometer readings from a height of 250 miles. Since the craft orbited Mars about 45,000 times and took more than 240,000 images during it's ten-year stint, NASA has more than just a little data to deal with. So it's started recruiting kids.
Working with Microsoft, NASA has created the Be a Martian website, where kids are crowdsourced into helping the space agency knit all of those Surveyor images into a single, coherent 3D map of Mars.
The site offers two games. In one, players are given three images from the Martian surface and must line them up with the background. NASA says the players' efforts will help them build more accurate models of the planet.
Another game asks kids to lasso Martian craters in the images. The results are used to estimate the relative ages of different regions of the planet, which provides clues to whether Mars was once habitable.
In exchange, kids are awarded 100 'reptuation' points for each task they complete. Achievement 'badges' can also be earned.
Games with a purpose — see Foldit and Louis von Ahn's work for other examples — are easily the most interesting genre of 'serious game.' Harnessing human cognition to our intense love of play has enormous potential...
"Not now, Mom, I'm raiding Kil'jaeden...oh and I'm curing cancer, too."
Laugh while you can.
[via The Register]"