Crowd Computing


June 19, 2013


Rob Miller




Crowd computing harnesses the power of people out in the web to do tasks that are hard for individual users or computers to do alone. Like cloud computing, crowd computing offers elastic, on-demand human resources that can drive new applications and new ways of thinking about technology. This talk will describe several prototype systems we have built, including:

  • Soylent, a Word plugin that crowdsources text editing tasks;
  • VizWiz, an app that helps blind people see using a crowd’s eyes;
  • Adrenaline, a camera shutter driven by crowd perception;
  • Caesar, a system for code reviewing by a crowd of programmers.

Crowd computing raises new challenges at the intersection of computer systems and human-computer interaction, including minimizing latency, improving quality of work, and providing the right incentives to the crowd. The talk will discuss the design space and the techniques we have developed to address some of these problems. We are now in a position where “Wizard of Oz” is no longer just a prototyping technique – thanks to crowd computing, Wizard of Oz systems can be useful and deployable.


Rob Miller

Rob Miller is an associate professor of computer science at MIT, and associate director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He earned bachelors and masters degrees in computer science from MIT (1995) and PhD from Carnegie Mellon University (2002). He has won an ACM Distinguished Dissertation honorable mention, NSF CAREER award, and six best paper awards at UIST and USENIX. He has been program co-chair for UIST 2010, general chair for UIST 2012, and associate editor of ACM TOCHI. He has won two department awards for teaching, and was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow for outstanding contributions to MIT undergraduate education. His research interests lie at the intersection of programming and human computer interaction: making programming easier for end-users (web end-user programming), making it more productive for professionals (HCI for software developers), and making people part of the programming system itself (crowd computing and human computation).