Catching up with Captcha

by Toby Manhire / 30 October, 2013
Researchers say a new program can crack those warped alphanumeric security codes - and it's a big step for artificial intelligence.
If you buy tickets online, you’ve probably already lost several hours of your life squinting at Captchas – the jumbles of numbers and letters distorted to form, as the acronym describes, a “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”.

It’s all meant to defy the touts and spammers and criminals, but the codes, as skewed as a Wellington washing line, are often near impossible to decipher.

One rather brilliant variant on the Captcha, called reCaptcha, helps in the digitisation of old texts.

But they could be an endangered species. A Californian technology company, Vicarious, says it has produced “a system that can read distorted text”, reports the New Scientist.

If their boast that it can correctly deduce more than 90% of Captchas proves true, this could represent a “technological leap”.

The program, which “uses virtual neurons connected in a network modelled on the human brain” is “more than a curiosity”, reports the NS.

“It is a step on the way to human-like artificial intelligence ... This kind of intelligence might enable things like robotic butlers, which can function in messy, human environments.”

Some reckon the future is not Captcha but Gotcha - or "Generating panOptic Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans Apart" - which use Rorschach inkblot-pattern tests.
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