Amazon Mechanical Turk
Building an online talent marketplace where organizations can advertise low cost tasks to be completed at scale by a crowd workforce
- Amazon Mechanical Turk¹ (AMT) is an online talent platform for human intelligence tasks which was rolled out as a public site in November 2005.
- A Human Intelligence Task (or HIT) represents a single, self-contained task that a worker can work on, submit an answer, and collect a reward for completing.
- Organizations are able to get thousands of HITs completed in minutes, reducing the cost, time and need for in house large workforces.
- AMT is based on the idea that there are still many things that human beings can do much more effectively than computers, such as identifying objects in a photo or video, performing data de-duplication, transcribing audio recordings, or researching data details.
- AMT provides a platform where firms can access a global, on-demand, 24 x 7 workforce.
- Organizations are able to get thousands of HITs completed in minutes, reducing the cost, time and need for in-house large workforces.
- AMT users can achieve significant savings – for example, Acxiom a marketing technology and services company saved 50% on transcription and outsourcing costs.
- DARPA was able to translate 1.5 million words in two months, for a cost of around $0.03 per word, one tenth the cost of using professional translators.
- A quarter of the HITs on AMT are valued at $0.01, 70% offer $0.05 or less, and 90% pay less than $0.10. This is seen to equate to an hourly rate of around two dollars. Amazon then takes a 10% fee.
- AMT started off as an in-house service to support business processes, outsourcing piecemeal tasks to contractors that required them to identify duplicate product web pages.
- AMT is based on a tripartite structure whereby the vendor (Amazon) owns and develops the platform, upon which firms or third-party requesters broadcast tasks.
- Workers perform services as independent contractors, not employees and therefore are not required to be paid a minimum wage.
1. Sources: AmazonTurk; ISPIM; WEF/Accenture Analysis
Amazon Mechanical Turk is one of more than 100 case studies identified as part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation of Industries initiative. An overview of the DTI program can be found here.