Luis von Ahn, profiled on this past season of NOVA scienceNOW, has just sold his company reCAPTCHA to Google.  The company came up with the idea for  'CAPTCHAs' - those squiggly words many websites require you to type in to verify that you are a real human (and not some auto-spammer).  Computers have trouble reading the skewed letters, but humans have no trouble at all. 

But the 'catch' with 'CAPTCHAs' is that many of the words come from scanned documents such as book and newspaper archives.  So they actually do double duty - protecting you from spam and helping to catalog all sorts of new information by teaching the computer to read blurred or faded words from the scanned text. 

Google plans to use the technology to help with their large text scanning projects including Google Books and Google News Archive Search.

Find out more about CAPTCHAs and their inventor here.
blog comments powered by Disqus