Sunday, August 17, 2008

Digitialization Efforts Through Challenge-Response Tests

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Another technology does good story, this time from Chris Albrecht a GIGAOM in a post titled CAPTCHA’s Can Be Useful, Don’tcha Know that describes the use of the CAPTCHA technology. A CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in many sites when users are doing things like making a reservation or a purchase or leaving comments to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer.

The Effort is to help digitalize print and is quite interesting use of the technology that many people just find annoying (i tend to enjoy the challenge!):
Efforts to digitize (really) old books and newspapers were being hampered by faded ink that confounded OCR software. The solution Luis von Ahn came up with was to use the words that the software couldn’t recognize and insert them into these so-called reCAPTCHAs and use the power of human brains to decipher them. CAPTCHAs serve up two words, one is the security word, the other goes toward the book digitization effort.

The New York Times is using this service to digitalize their archive that goes back to the 1800s (and paying for it). This ReCAPTCHA service as been a project at Carnegie Mellon where the CAPTCHA technology was born (but is being spun out as its own company) . The project is also doing work for free for the Internet Archive’s project to digitize every book published before 1980 which is pretty cool. If you are using sites like Craigslist and TicketMaster among some other 45,000 sites that use the technology you are also helping the effort.

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