Thursday, March 29, 2012

Google begins using reCAPTCHA to decipher Street View addresses, signs

In September of 2009, Google acquired reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA, while having the same basic purpose as any other CAPTCHA technology, which is to weed out non-human bots, it is also used to digitize books, newspapers and old time radio shows.

While Google has been using reCAPTCHA to digitize content for Google Books as well as for the Google News archives, what Google is using reCAPTCHA for now is for yet another Google product: Street View.

The new reCAPTCHAs show the familiar warped text image on one side, with a house address, street address, or even a street sign on the other side. They're not that common yet, but they've been seen on Google's AdWords website, and it only took five refreshes of this page to get the image above.

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The images obviously appear to be street address numbers, so it was believed these were coming from Street View photos. Google confirmed it was running an experiment.

"We’re currently running an experiment in which characters from Street View images are appearing in CAPTCHAs. We often extract data such as street names and traffic signs from Street View imagery to improve Google Maps with useful information like business addresses and locations. Based on the data and results of these reCaptcha tests, we’ll determine if using imagery might also be an effective way to further refine our tools for fighting machine and bot-related abuse online."

It just goes to show that there are still some things humans are still best suited for. It's for this reason that's Mechanical Turk was created.

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