At a TED talk In 2009, SETI Director Jill Tarter sought to "empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company."
With powerful computers and complex algorithms constantly sifting through terabytes of radio signals, Tarter saw a gap, and a need to put the crowdsourced human brain to greater use in SETI's search for extraterrestrial life.
From her office at SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., Tarter told CNET that when you are looking for a specific pattern or detail, computers are very helpful, but the problem comes when you just don't know exactly what you're looking for.
"When you're trying to find anomalies," Tarter said, "it may be that humans can better help us with that detection problem." A new application called SetiQuest Explore, developed in partnership with SETI, will put more human eyes into the sky, in search of signals from distant worlds.
Volunteers will search for radio-wave arrangements that don't match known patterns, such as those from TV transmissions. Any such anomalous patterns will be passed on to more-experienced observers for further investigation.
Much like the SETI@home project, which harnesses the computing power of many to carry out SETI's work, SetiQuest Explorer builds on an open-source, crowdsourced approach to aggregating human brain power.
Tarter says we've reached a tipping point in computing power which allows many to contribute to what was once the job of a small, specially trained community.
Perhaps all the computing power, paired with all the new eyes, will open up new worlds for SETI research.