Google Works on Making CAPTCHA Less Painful for People

Google is a major force in the world of CAPTCHA, providing a CAPTCHA API used in websites all over, including online commerce sites, feedback forms, Bitcoin faucets (oy ve, but these have made me a CAPTCHA expert), and others. The company announced a new API Wednesday called "CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA" that is intended to make the process of proving you're human less painful. (Check out the video below the fold.)

CAPCTHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. For instance, this is from Google's existing reCAPTCHA platform:


Google reCAPTCHA Example

There are many other competing systems, but they're all designed to foil spammers, slurpbots, and wayward scripts from using online forms or otherwise accessing content.

Sometimes they're hard. The above CAPCTHA, for instance, reads "arch ncernsib." This one isn't all that difficult, but if you're not careful, it would be easy to read the "rn" as an "m." I've had several CAPTCHAs defeat me over the years, and you probably have, too.

Then there's the mobile space, where CAPTCHA systems—including Google's reCAPTCHA—can be super annoying and difficult. Google's trying to change that, starting with simply asking people if they're bots. Like so:

We Are Devo

You Sure About That?

"While the new reCAPTCHA API may sound simple," Google said in a blog post, "there is a high degree of sophistication behind that modest checkbox. CAPTCHAs have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text. However, our research recently showed that today’s Artificial Intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8% accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test."

Google is being coy about how exactly this scheme works, but my money is on the company using its massive database on we, the product, to match our online identities up to the webpage we're visiting. If so, and if it truly stops the bots while making things easier for people, it will be a nice use of that data.

The company noted that there will still be incidents where its servers can't be sure you're human and require the use of more traditional CAPTCHA (despite the above assurances that AIs can crack those CAPCTHAs).

Google has been thinking about mobile, too, and showed off this concept:


Tap If Your Human

As Google notes, "It's much easier to tap photos of cats or turkeys than to tediously type a line of distorted text on your phone."

Truer words were ne'er spake. Or written. Whatevs.

Here's Google's video more or less explaining the new system: