It’s a very modern problem. You’ll be browsing Google before suddenly being asked to prove that you’re not a robot. As a result, you will need to enter the correct characters as shown to you on screen or identify which pictures contain traffic lights or something similar. Only then, will you be allowed to carry on with your search.
Distinguishing between you and a robot
The characters or images you see are called a CAPTCHA; an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. They are designed to help someone prove they are not an automated program searching through Google. Sometimes Google can mistake a human for a malicious program or bot which is why we’re often unexpectedly presented with them.
Google has explained that a CAPTCHA can be triggered by automated processes sometimes caused by spam bots, infected computers, email worms or DSL routers, or from some SEO ranking tools. If you ever get one of these CAPTCHAs, you simply need to verify yourself by entering the characters or clicking the correct photos. You may also wish to scan your computer for viruses and malware too, however.
But CAPTCHA has an even greater purpose. It is helping Google to train its AI to be smarter, faster and ultimately more reliable. At first, each CAPTCHA entry was being used to help Google transcribe books in but now this has been complete, it’s being used to help Google better recognize and identify objects in images.
Why does it do this? To provide more accurate Google Image search results, greater Google Maps routes and images, and enable users to search their Google Photo library for specific objects. More importantly however, it is helping Google to develop its driverless car technology. You know when CAPTCHA asks you to identify street signs? Essentially, you’re playing a very small role in piloting a driverless car somewhere, at some point in the future.
By using CAPTCHA to tackle these problems, Google can use our need to prove we’re human to force us to use our very human intuitions to build its database. This is why currently, instead of simply showing text, the tool asks you to complete image-related tasks: “Click all images of cars” for instance.
Therefore, they might be a nuisance, but every time you submit a CAPTCHA entry and prove you’re not a robot, you are actually moving us one step closer to driverless car technology, greater image recognition tools and to an improved Google experience.
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