No More Impossible CAPTCHAs

CAPTCHA exampleGoogle has announced (December 3, 2014) that there will soon be no more impossible CAPTCHAs to decipher. This comes a few months after the revelation by Vicarious, an artificial intelligence company, that they have developed software to solve about 90% of the challenging scrunched and squiggly word puzzles.

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart, which sounds like an acronym forced upon a catchy word in an attempt to make the word and number games more palatable. They were developed to help control spam in the internet world. And for more serious reasons too. When robots could go to ticket sites and buy huge blocks of tickets for events, for later scalping, serious need arose to prove that transactions were being made by humans.

What the heck is a Turing Test, anyway? It was named for the computer scientist Alan Turing, who posed the question in 1950, “can machines think?” He went on to write about this, and his work, although controversial, remains an important part of the development of artificial intelligence, AI.

The new technology will be called reCAPTCHA. Ironically, a robot program will determine if you are human. The claim is for about 80% accuracy. If the robot isn’t sure if you are flesh and brain, it will then ask you to solve a puzzle. The initial decision is supposed to be based on the small movements that people make with a mouse before clicking on a simple box saying “I’m not a robot.”

This will also be the end of some usefulness. Someone figured out that the scanning of old manuscripts could be aided by the humans doing CAPTHAs. So when we’ve seen one word that wasn’t hard to read, and another strange one, we were helping OCR (optical character recognition) software digitize old books. All those house numbers we’ve translated to digits… yes, we were helping Google with that task too. We’ll no longer be working for Google for free. At least doing this.

Sites will have the option to go with the new reCAPTCHA or stick with the old version, but people are sure to demand the end of the annoying puzzles.

Do you think it’s a little eerie that the Great and Mighty Google can tell you are human just by a few wiggles of a mouse? Brrrr.

Personally, I think it would be pretty easy to develop a program that imitates the human-guided movement of a mouse to counteract the new test. This seems much easier than breaking random scrunched words. But every new security iteration will have its own challenges. But soon, whatever comes next, there will be no more impossible CAPTCHAs.

Graphic captured by the author: J.H. Young


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  1. TheBrit

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