Google has acquired ReCaptcha, one of those companies behind the distorted text boxes at the bottom of many Web site sign-in pages.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Google plans to use ReCaptcha's technology both as a security measure within certain Google sites and to make its massive book-scanning project a little smarter, the company said in a blog post. ReCaptcha is an offshoot of Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, and : a string of letters in squiggly text meant to confuse spam bots and other nonhuman Web pests.
The idea behind a captcha is to confuse a computer, but computers are also confused by some words written in fonts used long ago. ReCaptcha offers two words, one of which is a captcha it already knows, and one of which is a word it doesn't know. The thinking is that if you get the first word right, you're likely a human and you're also probably going to get the second one right.
It can then pool all the answers for the second word and declare with a reasonable amount of certainty that the second word is what most people think it is, thereby updating the vocabulary of participating book scanners. This is of obvious interest to Google,.