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About Amazon Mechanical Turk

What is Amazon Mechanical Turk?

In 1769, Hungarian nobleman Wolfgang von Kempelen astonished Europe by building a mechanical chess-playing automaton that defeated nearly every opponent it faced. A life-sized wooden mannequin, adorned with a fur-trimmed robe and a turban, Kempelen’s “Turk” was seated behind a cabinet and toured Europe, confounding such brilliant challengers as Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Bonaparte. To persuade skeptical audiences, Kempelen would slide open the cabinet’s doors to reveal the intricate set of gears, cogs and springs that powered his invention. He convinced them that he had built a machine that made decisions using artificial intelligence. What they did not know was the secret behind the Mechanical Turk: a chess master cleverly concealed inside.

Today, we build complex software applications based on the things computers do well, such as storing and retrieving large amounts of information or rapidly performing calculations. However, humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs – something children can do even before they learn to speak.

When we think of interfaces between human beings and computers, we usually assume that the human being is the one requesting that a task be completed, and the computer is completing the task and providing the results. What if this process was reversed and a computer program could ask a human being to perform a task and return the results? What if it could coordinate many human beings to perform a task?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) provides a service for service requesters (hereafter “Requesters”) to integrate Artificial Artificial Intelligence directly into their applications by making requests of humans. Requesters can use the MTurk web user interface or web services API to submit tasks to the MTurk web site, approve completed tasks, and incorporate the answers into their applications. When using the web services API, the transaction looks very much like any remote procedure call – the application sends the request, and the service returns the results. In reality, a network of human Workers (hereafter “Workers”) fuels this Artificial Artificial Intelligence by coming to the web site, searching for and completing tasks, and receiving reward for their work.

All Requesters need to do is write normal code. The pseudo code below illustrates how simple this can be.

read(photo); photoContainsHuman = callMechanicalTurk(photo); if (photoContainsHuman == TRUE) { acceptPhoto(); } else { rejectPhoto(); }

What problem does Amazon Mechanical Turk solve?

  • For software developers, the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) web service solves the problem of building applications that until now have not worked well without human intelligence. Humans are much more effective at solving some types of problems, like finding specific objects in pictures, evaluating beauty, or translating text. The idea of the MTurk web service is to give developers a programmable interface to a network of humans to solve these kinds of problems and incorporate this human intelligence into their applications.
  • For businesses and entrepreneurs who want tasks completed, the MTurk service solves the problem of accessing a vast network of human intelligence with the efficiencies and cost-effectiveness of computers. Oftentimes people do not move forward with certain projects because the cost to establish a network of skilled Workers to do the work outweighs the value of completing it. By turning the fixed costs into variable costs that scale with their needs, the MTurk web service eliminates this barrier and allows projects to be completed that before were not economical.
  • For people who want to earn money in their spare time, the MTurk web site solves the problem of finding work you can do wherever and whenever you want using the skills you already possess.

How do Requesters ensure their tasks are completed in a high-quality manner?

Requesters have several options for ensuring their HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) are completed in a high-quality manner.
  • Requesters have the opportunity to approve completed HITs before having to pay for them. There are many ways Requesters can approve HITs, ranging from auto-approving them sight unseen, to auto-approving them when they receive two answers to the same HIT that match, to manually approving some or all completed HITs.
  • Requesters can specify that people who work on their tasks must first complete a qualification test, thus giving Requesters the opportunity to vet the skill level of the people working on their HITs beforehand. Over time people who do work on the Amazon Mechanical Turk web site will have statistics associated with them based on how accurately they have completed other HITs. These statistics, such as the percentage of HITs they’ve submitted that have been approved, allow Requesters to specify further that only Workers with certain qualifications can work on their HITs.

Who completes the tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk and how do they complete them?

  • Virtually anyone can complete tasks on the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) web site using the skills they already have and according to their own schedule. The only requirement to complete tasks and collect payment from Requesters is a computing device connected to the Internet and to be at least 18-years-old.
  • Earning money through the MTurk web site is as easy as searching for HITs on the site, accepting those HITs, completing them, and collecting the reward once the HIT is approved by the Requester.
  • To make money by completing tasks using the MTurk web site, visit worker.mturk.com.

What kind of work can be done using Amazon Mechanical Turk?

  • Anyone can submit virtually any task that can be completed using a computing device connected to the Internet.
  • Amazon came up with the idea for Amazon Mechanical Turk to help solve specific internal data processing problems that required human judgment and intelligence. We quickly realized that we had invented something unique and incredibly useful, and decided to expose it as an external web service so that Requesters can create their own innovative applications that use human intelligence as a core component.

How do Workers collect money for the tasks they complete?

When a Requester approves a task, Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) transfers Requester funds to the MTurk account of the Worker who completed the task. Workers in the United States can transfer earnings to their Amazon Payments account or to their Amazon.com gift card balance. Workers outside of the United States can transfer earnings to their Amazon.com gift card balance, and some Workers may be eligible to transfer earnings to their bank accounts.

Can any business use Amazon Mechanical Turk or do they need to understand how to use web services and APIs?

Businesses can create and publish HITs on Amazon Mechanical Turk using the Requester web user interface (UI), the API, or the command line interface (CLI). Visit the Requester User Interface Guide to learn more about the UI or the developer getting started guide to learn about the API or CLI.

Can Requesters outside of the US use Amazon Mechanical Turk to get tasks completed?

We currently accept registrations from the following countries:

Americas

Barbados, Chile, Canada, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Puerto Rico, United States, US Minor Islands, US Virgin Islands

Africa

Botswana, Mayotte, Réunion, South Africa

Asia and Pacific

Australia, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan

Europe

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

We’re working hard to make Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) available for more Requesters. Want to suggest a country? Let us know.

Where can I view and edit my name, email address, password, and payment methods

You can view and edit your account information by accessing your My Account page. Please note that your MTurk Requester account is associated with your Amazon.com account so when you edit your personal settings, they will be changed on the corresponding Amazon.com account.

Where can I view and edit my contact address information?

You can view and edit your contact address on Amazon.com.

Payments & Fees

How do I purchase prepaid HITs on Amazon Mechanical Turk?

Follow these steps to purchase prepaid HITs:
  1. From your Amazon Mechanical Turk account, go to My Account -> Purchase Prepaid HITs.
  2. Enter in the amount you would like to purchase.
  3. Select the credit or debit card on file or enter in new credit or debit card information.
  4. Confirm your purchase.

Note: As a US Requester, you may be prompted to establish a verified Amazon Payments account if you plan to make a purchase above certain amounts. You can create a verified Amazon Payments account at any time here.

How are the fees calculated?

You can review Amazon Mechanical Turk pricing here.

What rounding rules are applied when calculating fees?

After the fee is calculated, we round half up amounts greater than $0.01 – we round down if the fractional amount is less than half a penny, and round up otherwise. For example, $0.104 is rounded to $0.10, $0.105 is rounded to $0.11, and $0.108 is rounded to $0.11.

How are Workers paid?

Workers will be paid and Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) fees will be charged when you approve submitted work. If you reject the work, the Worker is not paid and you are not charged the MTurk fees. MTurk Prepaid HITs are subject to Participation Agreement. You can review MTurk pricing here.

Can I use any Amazon Payments account to purchase prepaid HITs?

No. You can purchase prepaid HITs using your credit or debit card on the Purchase Prepaid HITs page.

How do I receive a refund for prepaid HITs?

If you would like a refund of your prepaid HIT purchase, please contact customer support.

Refunds are processed to the original payment method used to prepay the account. You can find this information on the My Account page.

  • When requesting a refund, provide the refund amount and the payment method used when you contact customer support.
  • If there is Liability on the account, we are not able to process a refund. The amount held in Liability is visible on the My Account page.
  • Refunds are issued for the full amount of the available balance on any given transaction.

How do I receive a receipt for prepaid HITs?

You can contact mturk.com/contact-us to have a copy of your receipt emailed to you. In order to process your request, please provide the transaction time period to be included in the receipt. Note: If you have signed up for AWS Billing, invoicing is automated on a monthly basis and also available for download from the Billing Console.

You can download your transaction history for your records here.

Who are Amazon Mechanical Turk Masters?

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) has built technology which analyzes Worker performance, identifies high performing Workers, and monitors their performance over time. Workers who have demonstrated excellence across a wide range of HITs are awarded the Masters Qualification. Masters must continue to pass our statistical monitoring to maintain the MTurk Masters Qualification.

Do you collect tax reporting information from non-US based Workers?

Yes, all non-U.S. based Workers are required to provide their tax information through a tax information interview before doing any work on Mechanical Turk just as U.S. Workers are required to do. The tax information interview collects the U.S. tax status (for U.S. person or non-U.S. person), the name, and the permanent residence address of the individual that will report the income on an income tax return.

What are funds held for liability?

Funds held for liability is the sum of your assignment liability and fee liability.

Funds held for assignment liability is an estimated amount representing how much you would have to pay Workers if Workers submitted results for every assignment you are requesting, and you approved all of the results. We hold these funds because we need to ensure that Workers are paid…

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