Feeds

NASA maps Mars with child labor web games

Hey kid, Be a Martian

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA is outsourcing laborious Martian cartography to Earth children with a website that entices users to make a game out of sorting through the space agency's hundreds of thousands images of the Red Planet.

In collaboration with Microsoft, NASA has created the "Be a Martian" website, where helping to improve Mars map data earns participants "points" and "badges" as well as a heady sense of aiding humanity's exploration of distant worlds without having to wipe the Funions dust off your fingers.

The website features two games that use crowdsourcing as a tool to help scientists better understand the Red Planet.

One game tasks players with lining up three images of the Martian surface taken by the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter against a larger background image from the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter (operational from 1996-2006) that measures elevation. Using the background as a guide, users nudge the smaller images into place until the surface features line up precisely. NASA said the process game will help scientists create more accurate 3D models of the planet. (This game can prove quite difficult when the images provided lack distinctive features).

The second game available is counting Red Planet pock marks. With a single Mars Odyssey mission snapshot, users place and resize a circle tool around Martian crater outlines. NASA hopes to use this data to help figure out the relative ages of small areas around Mars and notes the information may be important to discovering when or whether Mars was once habitable.

The website is built on Microsoft's Windows Azure platform and its new "Dallas" service unveiled at the company's Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) today in Los Angeles.

Of course, any computer game needs a bit of inducement to make it not seem like so much repetitive labor. NASA rewards players with 100 reputation "points" per completed task and a collection of "badges" for advanced participation. It's more of a personal score, really, as they don't manifest into anything other than satisfaction of being a standup sort willing to donate your personal* time to Mars science.

Both companies hope the website will inspire youngsters to grow up to be part of their payroll.

"Industry leaders like NASA and Microsoft have a social responsibility as well as a vested interest in advancing science and technology education," said Walid Abu-Hadba, veep of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group in a statement. "We are excited to be working with NASA to provide new opportunities to engage with Mars mission data, and to help spark interest and excitement among the next generation of scientists and technologists."

(Plus having better Mars maps could be a terrific F-you to Google. But children are great too, we're sure). ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.