Google announced this morning they would be acquiring reCAPTCHA. This interesting acquisition makes a lot of sense. One of the original reasons (if not the original reason) for developing CAPTCHA was to ensure the person on your website or application was in fact human. BOTS would crawl through the internet and create posts and forum topics etc., to distribute SPAM and BOTS across sites. CAPTCHA would step in by displaying an image which only a human could decipher/respond to (usually), and then ask them to type in a word or several words to ensure they were HUMAN.
This is where the brilliance of this acquisition from Google comes in. As people are typing out these CAPTCHA images to register on Facebook or create a GMAIL account etc., then reCAPTCHA can display old newspapers and books which need text conversion completed. This essential process enables a free workforce to do easy (but labor intensive) work for the company that hires reCAPTCHA!
Since Google has been in the business of INDEXING the world, including old Books and Magazines, it will now have access to a FREE workforce to help translate and perfect it’s OCR technology. Like I said, brilliant.
Teaching computers to read [via Google Blogs]