That human edge in decoding what things mean is what a computer scientist turned entrepreneur, Luis von Ahn, is betting on. His startup, Duolingo, which has just opened to the public, proposes to put armies of language learners to work translating text on the web.
For Duolingo to work well, it needs a huge crowd of learners. The more proficient they become, the greater the chances of accurate translations. In Duolingo, a large piece of text is broken into easy and difficult pieces — by a computer, of course — then parceled out to students at varying levels and put back together, again by a machine. Von Ahn said that "eventually we intend to charge content providers either for faster or more accurate translations."