If you’ve been online, during the past 10 years, inevitably you’ve run into CAPTCHA or better said you may have had a run in with CAPTCHA. When I first encountered CAPTCHA, I didn’t have a clue why this addition problem was there so I ignored it, and the form ignored me too. Those annoying little boxes challenging your recollection of elementary math, have knowledge of Arabic or Hebrew or get distorted character messages that make you wonder whether it’s totally random or personal.
CAPTCHA, also known as Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, was invented to ensure only humans were entering data into the entry fields and not a computer program. I utterly despise SPAM and to stop receiving it on my website I implemented CAPTCHA. This essentially eliminated the problem, but it also had an unwanted side effect of dramatically reducing the number of comments I received. A study was conducted which confirmed my opinion – CAPTCHA impacts some people’s ability/willingness to follow through on completing it.
Some CAPTCHA facts: Each CAPTCHA takes about 10 seconds to complete.
Roughly 200 million CAPTCHA is completed daily.
About 500,000 hours or the equivalent of 62,500 man days are spent daily completing CAPTCHA; hours are essentially wasted.
The number of wasted hours disturbed Luis von Ahn, an associate professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the CAPTCHA inventors. It bothered Luis enough that he challenged his team to with the problem. Create a way to return value to the hours wasted that would benefit the entire world.
Enter the reCAPTCHA. ReCAPTCHA or son of CAPTCHA uses the power of CAPTCHA to help digitize old books and newspapers. When you answer a reCAPTCHA you are doing something a computer is currently unable to do. The optical character recognition software used can’t always make out what some of the words are especially in the older books or when the existing copies are damaged. By identifying the word the computer has problems with, you’re helping to digitize text.
Some reCAPTCHA facts: About 100 million words are digitized daily.
Results in 2.5 million books and newspapers digitized annually.
About 750 million people contribute to the digitization of a single book.
Created a new phenomenon called reCAPTCHA art; adding an original image to go along with the two random words.
This enlisting of the efforts of the ever-increasing Web-connected population to achieve collaboration in large numbers is called crowdsourcing. Google ReCAPTCHA is here to stay and while having to guess at what the random words are can be annoying perhaps not so much so knowing your answers are contributing to digitizing human knowledge. Luis Von Ahn next goal is to use crowdsourcing to translate the web. Users will be able to learn a language for free while at the same time translating digital content.