Enter the maze

Can you tell what it is yet?

The Head of a Resting Swan

Australian artist Rolf Harris, famous for his paintings, wobble board and didgeridoo (and perhaps infamous for his version of Stairway to Heaven), entertains audiences by painting splendid pictures bits at a time. It takes a while to work out just exactly what the picture is. 'Can you tell what is it yet' is his catch-phrase.

Phetch...a fun game that helps you help the partially sighted (and they don't even play)

Pictures are important, worth a thousand words at today's exchange rates, and websites the Net over make use of images to explain, entertain and illustrate. However those people with severe sight deficits have problems with accessing information if it's in a pictorial form. To resolve this problem web designers include a text description of the image which screen readers (software that speaks text) can give disabled users the information they need. Accessibility for websites is becoming more vital as more and more people turn to the web for information. We can make sure new web sites have text descriptions of images, but what about the millions of other sites without text descriptions? How can they be updated?

That's where the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University have come to the rescue with a clever online game called Phetch. In the team game one person is shown an image and describes it in words. The other people in your team, the seekers, then try and find the image on the web you are describing. If the written description given is good enough for one of the seekers to find the unique image, then it's stored and used to label that particular picture. The person who finds the correct image is given a new image to describe, and the others in the team become the seekers. The game is fun to play, but it's also using the power of the Internet to bring people together and use their combined resources to help solve a real problem.

It gives a whole new cyber meaning to 'can you tell what it is yet?'