Albert-lin-475
When we first introduced Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin in our Adventurers of the Year feature story last November, we were all blown away by his groundbreaking archaeological quest in northern Mongolia—you even gave him the Readers' Choice Award. Now you can literally be part of his expedition team with our new Field
Expedition: Mongolia website
.

By conducting a noninvasive archeological survey as never before—with
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
flyovers, ground-penetrating radar, remote sensors, satellite
imagery, and even a 3-D virtual reality chamber—the team has
redefined exploration and conservation. And while solving the 600-year-old mystery
would, of course, be amazing, Lin's ultimate goal is to help
preserve the region's significant cultural heritage (see a photo gallery from their previous expedition).

To do that, Lin's crew is currently on the ground in Mongolia's "Forbidden Zone" to continue their search—with some new tech toys, such as their "oktokopter" UAV (see it nearly crash into Lin in this video). But all the technology in the world can not make up for the skill of the human eye, so they are asking for your help. Think of it as a citizen science expedition team of
1,000 or 10,000 or as many people as we can recruit. The potential for discovery is astounding.

On the Field Expedition: Mongolia website you can examine real-time satellite photos to spot irregularities that the scientists on the ground should investigate. Lin's team will then report back with their findings. This crowd-sourcing technique has been used before—perhaps most notably in the search for Steve Fossett's lost airplane. We are hopeful that you will have a hand in helping preserve Mongolia's most
sacred heritage. Follow their blog and sign up for newsletter updates.

Comments

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    June 30, 2010, 3:08 pm

    I’m highly dubious. Heavily promoted endeavors relying on gadgetry rarely accomplish anything except free publicity for the inventor. Especially eye-raising is this statement:
    “This crowd-sourcing technique has been used before—perhaps most notably in the search for Steve Fossett’s lost airplane.”
    This equipment (and more) was indeed used in the search for Fossett, and as any casual reader knows, it was an absolute failure. Fossett’s remains were finally found by a hiker by complete accident, over a year later, after “… the largest, most complex search for an individual in history…” failed to find a trace.
    “Crowd-sourcing” not only didn’t work in the Fossett case, but the Commander of the search singled it out as being worse than that: “Major Cynthia Ryan later said it had been more of a hindrance than a help.”

  2. Mary Anne Potts
    June 30, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Here is a bit more info about the scientific nature of the expedition:
    * Valley of the Khans will source the crowd to identify anomalies that could indicate sites of cultural heritage in the remote northeastern region of Mongolia
    * A goal of Valley of the Khans is to develop human computation concepts that efficiently harness the power of human perception on a massive scale and combine collective human response with machine learning.
    * The results of the investigation of massive scale human/computer collaboration are fundamental and could be applied in diverse ways
    * Massive amounts of data have been generated through thousands of square kilometers of ultrahigh resolution multi-spectral data collected by the IKONOS (1 meter resolution) and GEOEYE-1 (0.41 meter resolution) earth sensing satellites (provided by the GeoEye Foundation). The field expedition funded by the National Geographic/Waitt Institute Foundation conducted in July 2009 has generated thousands of multi-spectral aerial images through the deployment of unmanned air vehicles and future identified satellite image anomalies will be ground truthed in July 2010 and 2011. Through a collaboration with NG Digital Media, a massive crowd can be generated to perform the analysis. What remains is an investigation and advancement of the system that must exist between the public, the computer, and the expert to extract important and relevant information. We will utilize the compelling nature of the case study to inspire users participation, converting the average individual into a virtual Marco Polo through the potential of locating the ”archaeological discovery of the century”.
    * User hierarchies can be developed to cultivate public mentorship mechanisms and to amplify competitiveness among users to increase overall data analysis accuracy.
    * Data generated from the crowd could train computer-vision algorithms and facilitate active machine learning by allowing computers to direct the crowd to address weak points in existing algorithms.
    * Through innovative and transformative information visualization methodologies our investigators will have unprecedented perspective into the variables of a massive public participation. Furthermore a public audience will be able to contribute and be engaged in ongoing scientific exploration, inspiring the average web user to take an active role in understanding our world.
    * Questions can now be addressed, as never before, by sourcing of massive human demographic to supplement the limitations of computer computation. This is especially relevant in the case of visual analytics where human intuition remains beyond the scope of existing computer object recognition algorithms. While algorithms are limited by pre-labeling requirements, humans can perceive subtle variables and nuances to identify and classify un-predetermined objects. These tasks, however, are often too massive in scale for a single human to accomplish. Distributing this task over a massive human network can not only succeed in initial categorizations of data, but generate sufficient primers (training data) to teach computer vision algorithms to differentiate anomaly from normal

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    Thank you for the further excellent explanation. Having people get involved is terrific.
    The Fossett search was remarkable, as it ably demonstrated many new techniques and technologies, while also showing luck remains a factor.

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