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reCAPTCHA: tiny acts towards big social impact

If you’ve ever purchased or subscribed to something online, chances are you’ve come across CAPTCHA: A series of graphically distorted letters that you need to type into a box to prove you’re not a spambot. A necessary nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless.

Enter Luis von Ahn, one of the minds behind the original CAPTCHA. After finding out that approximately 200 million CAPTCHAs are typed in every day, with about 10 seconds used per entry, meaning humanity as a whole is generally wasting 500 thousand hours every day on filling out CAPTCHAs, Luis decided to do something about it. He created reCAPTCHA.

The significance of reCAPTCHA is that leverages the authentication process people are already completing to help digitize books one word at a time. Many online vendors and companies have switched to using reCAPTCHA in the last few years, so much so that as many as 100 million words are being digitized daily by you and I. How’s that for a tiny contribution towards big social impact? Pretty impressive.

But Luis himself speaks to all of this far better than I. Watch his TEDx talk on reCAPTCHA in the video below.

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