Adam Weiss on Bostons museum of science podcast recently interviewed Luis von Ahn one of the people behind CAPTCHAs those squiggly lines and puzzles that you solve every time you sign onto a website or post a comment to your blog to prove that you are a human.
They are basically designed so that computers cannot easily decript the message whereas the human brain can.
Yesterday at the Berkman thursday blog group meeting Adam spoke about how Luis Von Ahn and others have a new take on using CAPTCHAs called reCAPTCHAs. Apparently, the amount of time spent in solving these puzzles amounts to about 150,000 hours daily . So Von Ahn and his group at Carnegie Mellon figured a good way to put all this time to good use was to help the digital library project. What reCAPTCHA basically does is to collect all the words that fail to be recognized by the optical character recognition ( basically the computer algorithms that convert an image to text) from the digital library project and use them to authenticate users.
So now you are presented with two words, one that CAPTCHA knows the answer for and the other that is part of the reCAPTCHA database. So thanks to your being human you solve both words correctly and contribute one more word to the digital library projects book digitization effort.
The above image is a link to the reCAPTCHA website
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