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Definition: Mechanical Turk

A subsidiary of Amazon.com that provides a Web services system that uses people to perform tasks better handled by humans than computers. Mechanical Turk is a "crowdsourcing" system, in which requesters post Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) along with the fee they will pay for their completion. Turkers (the workers) choose their HITs, do the jobs and submit the results. Examples of HITs are locating information on a document, translating foreign languages, transcribing speech, as well as comparing audio to written transcripts. For more information, visit www.mturk.com. See crowdsourcing.

Who's the Turk?
The name comes from Wolfgang von Kempelen's mechanical "Turk" in the mid-1700s, which was an expert chess player dressed up as a wooden mannequin. Defeating challengers throughout Europe, including Napoleon, the Turk sat inside a wooden cabinet wearing a robe and turban. Opening the door to reveal gears and springs inside, Kempelen fooled people into believing this was a mechanical device with artificial intelligence.