Thursday, September 17, 2009

Google acquires reCAPTCHA to help digitize books

This is good! Google just acquired reCaptcha and will be using it to help improve its book digitization project.

reCaptcha is:

a free CAPTCHA service that helps to digitize books, newspapers and old time radio shows. Check out our paper in Science about it (or read more below).

A CAPTCHA is a program that can tell whether its user is a human or a computer. You've probably seen them — colorful images with distorted text at the bottom of Web registration forms. CAPTCHAs are used by many websites to prevent abuse from "bots," or automated programs usually written to generate spam. No computer program can read distorted text as well as humans can, so bots cannot navigate sites protected by CAPTCHAs.

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into "reading" books.

Well now you should feel a bit better about the time you spend filling in those little boxes.

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