By Leena Rao
Google (GOOG) has acquired reCAPTCHA, an open source technology that provides CAPTCHAs to prevent spam and fraud. Captchas are those security questions you find on Web sites that require you to decipher and type words or numbers and detects whether the user is a human.
Here’s what Google wrote in a blog post about the announcement:
CAPTCHAs are designed to allow humans in but prevent malicious programs from scalping tickets or obtain millions of email accounts for spamming. But there’s a twist — the words in many of the CAPTCHAs provided by reCAPTCHA come from scanned archival newspapers and old books. Computers find it hard to recognize these words because the ink and paper have degraded over time, but by typing them in as a CAPTCHA, crowds teach computers to read the scanned text.
Google says that reCAPTCHA’s technology improves the process that converts scanned images into plain text, known as Optical Character Recognition (OCR). It sounds like Google will be using the technology to power massive scanning projects for Google Books and Google News Archive Search as well as for fraud and spam prevention.