Google has acquired ReCaptcha, one of those companies behind the distorted text boxes at the bottom of many Web site sign-in pages.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Google plans to use ReCaptcha's technology both as a security measure within certain Google sites and to make its massive book-scanning project a little smarter, the company said in a blog post. ReCaptcha is an offshoot of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, and puts a twist on the traditional captcha: a string of letters in squiggly text meant to confuse spam bots and other nonhuman Web … Read more
I dig goofy T-shirts and this one stole my heart this morning. It comes from Web 2.0 invite service Crusher (review), and emulates the style of a captcha, which are those often times impossible-to-read pictures of warped and stretched words you need to translate to prove your humanity on most Web sites. Unlike real captchas though, solving this one won't help translate old books, or separate your Web identity from that of cold and calculating robots.
Related: Web Shirts: 20 rad T-shirt sites
Spam, zombie robots, and the rest of the dark underbelly of the Internet has led to one of the Web's big annoyances: the captcha. That's the barely readable block of random letters you must translate in order to prove your humanness, and it's supposedly the one thing that separates us from the machines. It's also used in nearly every site registration process--and more recently at site logins. The bottom line is that it's annoying but also utterly necessary to keep evil at bay.
Enter reCAPTCHA, a project of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. A mix between disease-curing Folding@Home, and MyCroft [review], reCAPTCHA requires users to solve two jumbled words: one is the actual captcha, the other is just a word that needs to be translated into text. These words come from various scanned books and documents residing on the Internet Archive. Many of those books were written before computers and in their current state (PDFs and image files) are just glorified photographs--a medium that is still hard to sort through. Once complete, they'll be digital text, and completely searchable.
Words for translation are not just chosen by random. Documents that have been scanned, get checked by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine, which is able to pick up many of the words. Those that are misspelled by OCR, or are impossible to read, are plucked and put into the ReCaptcha word pool. Sites can implement ReCaptcha several ways. There are plug-ins for WordPress, MediaWiki, phpBB, and PHP.
I've embedded a sample ReCaptcha below. You'll notice both words look similar, as ReCaptcha is using both words from the same source, so you can't tell which one has already been solved.