Digital technology applied to real-life search

The adventurer Steve Fossett has been missing since 3 September. Searchers of the vast area of the Nevada Desert, where his plane vanished, have come up with a novel way to increase the chances of finding him.

Google has updated satellite imagery for the area on Google Earth with the result that hundreds of people are now scouring hi-resolution images looking for potential wreckage in an area that is approximately 17,000 square miles.

Coordination of the project has been enabled by Amazon. They’ve created a collaborative search scheme which is being delivered by their Mechanical Turk system. The Mechanical Turk is a website which pays people to complete tasks that computers would struggle to do, for example, assessing images.

Those taking part in the online search can flag images – it has been suggested the crashed plane would appear as an object about ’21 pixels long and 30 pixels in wingspan’. Flagged images are then passed on to the live search team.

I hope that digital technology may have a positive part to play in a scenario that is looking increasingly unhopeful.