Taking web security and user-friendly design to even greater heights, Google introduced its newest update to the reCAPTCHA application programming interface (API) on December 3rd, 2014. Many web users will recognize reCAPTCHA as the security feature that prompts an individual to verify that he or she is "not a robot" by interpreting text within a digital image. And for all of those who have ever failed to differentiate a blurry number "1" from a distorted letter "l" – especially those who have experienced such frustrations before having their morning cups of coffee – this new reCAPTCHA update is certainly a welcomed one. However, there's more to this story than a universal sigh of content-consumer relief. In fact, the updated reCAPTCHA API represents a paradigm shift in visual artificial intelligence and a computer's ability to interpret objects in the real world.
In the past, webmasters used reCAPTCHA as a security feature to protect websites against malicious automated software. To verify human authenticity, the API presented images of numbers and text and then prompted users to interpret the images through digits and characters. It then cross referenced the user’s response with a database of correct answers to determine if the user was “not a robot.” This process largely relied on the fact that previous algorithms could not accurately distinguish characters within images. However, that all changed last spring when Google updated its Street View algorithm and accidentally created something extraordinary.
According to Google’s Online Security Blog, the company’s research team developed an enhanced visual A.I. sometime in April of 2014. As a result “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.”
Although the accuracy of Google’s newest software is remarkable, the implications of the advancement can only be speculated at this time. Meanwhile, we can all rest easy knowing that the reCAPTCHA replacement – which Google has dubbed the “no CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” – promises a simplified yet equally secure user-experience that won’t have us screaming at our laptops every time we try to read the morning news.