Playing Games and Answering Questions

One of the most common activities on the web is searching for answers to questions, and search engines are one way to find some answers. But they aren’t the only means available on the web and people have been turning to places like forums, through usenet, and in many different sites that provide people the chance to interact.

Microsoft has a new patent application for a Game-powered search engine (US Patent Application 20060167874) that looks at some of those means as the groundwork for this invention of theirs.

The listed inventors are Luis A. von Ahn Arellano, Eric D. Brill, John C. Platt, and Josh Benaloh, and it was filed on January 24, 2005 and published July 27, 2006. Here’s the abstract:

The subject invention provides a unique system and method that facilitates an interactive game-powered search engine that serve the purposes of both users who may be looking for information as well as game participants who may desire to earn some reward or level of enjoyment by playing the game. More specifically, the system and method provides feedback to a user based on the user’s input string or a string derived therefrom. The feedback can be a response or answer to the user’s input in the form of text, an image, audio or sound, video, and/or a URL that is provided by one or more game participants when there is some degree of consistency or agreement between the responses or when individual players have demonstrated good reliability in their responses.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure how original it is. One of the sites mentioned in the patent application is the Korean search engine, which does encourage people to create content in response to questions. It is interesting to see Microsoft’s take on how such a process may work though.

With Google Answers, and Yahoo Answers online, Windows Live QnA doesn’t appear to be too far behind. Does this patent application describe what the service will be like?

We should start finding out soon. The Windows Live QnA blog notes that invitations should have started going out.