The word genius gets tossed around loosely quite a lot (we've actually heard it used in reference to the movie Phantoms. Yes, Phantoms). But in Luis von Ahn, the Idea Conference has landed the genuine article. The 29-year-old MacArthur Fellow and assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University wrote his 2005 Ph. D thesis on the importance of human-based computation within computation generally. Basically, using humans to make computers better. By creating "games with purpose," von Ahn has gathered a collection of work from millions of users to help develop the online world. His ESP Game matches two anonymous users with one image and challenges them to label the image with the same word. It's fun, addictive and helping to label millions of images available online. His other games include a game for finding specific objects within an image called Peekaboom and another for adding explanatory text to web images called Phetch. You may know him from Captcha, that thing in blog comments and forms asking you to type a word or phrase to prove you're not a computer.
von Ahn was named one of Popular Science magazine's "Brilliant 10" scientists of 2006 and will be giving us some insight on November 15thâ€”buy your tickets now.