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Recently a drywall installing robot was introduced to housing. That robot is one of many that is in development stages and will change the face of home building in the future. This new group, Hive, focuses on building the intelligence that those robots will run on.

One of the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley is that it takes a whole lot of human labor to make artificial intelligence...intelligent.

The best example: When Google's reCAPTCHA pages ask you to identify street signs or storefronts in photos before you can log in, you're proving you're not a robot, sure. You're also providing valuable, human insight into what a street sign looks like, which is extremely useful data when you're trying to train a self-driving car, or a smart security camera. The whole concept was memorably lampooned in an episode last year of HBO's "Silicon Valley."

Enter Hive, a Silicon Valley-based startup that's embracing this human element to provide AI-powered image recognition that's "orders of magnitude better than Google," as cofounder Kevin Guo puts it. Guo's cofounder Dmitriy Karpman actually dropped out of a prestigious PhD program at Stanford University to make Hive a reality; Guo got his Masters degree there before entering the tech industry.

The secret of Hive, says Guo, is that it's turned training an AI into a kind of game — one with real cash prizes. Over 600,000 people have signed up for Hive Work, a smartphone app and website, to help train its AI systems. Hive Work asks users to do things like categorize images (a photo of a car might fall under "automobile" and "transport"), or to transcribe a short snipped of audio, or, like Google reCAPTCHA, to identify all the birds in a photo.

The money isn't much, Guo acknowledges, but it adds up to "tens of dollars" pretty quickly, and it's easy enough that you can "play" from your phone while you're on your commute. And, hey, money is money.

"What's the alternative? Playing Candy Crush Saga and losing money," jokes Guo.

The collected human insight is used to train up AI systems for customers like NASCAR, which uses the Hive Data product to track how often and how long a corporate logo is displayed on screen during a race, which is information that advertisers love having, says Guo. Hive also has other AI products, including Hive Predict, an AI-powered tool for helping companies use their data to spot patterns.

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