Using captchas to digitize old, damaged books


Those dumb captchas may actually serve a purpose now. A gentleman by the name of Luis von Ahn at Carnegie Mellon University (Biggs went there!) has devised a system whereby software-unreadable words are sent to captcha providers. Since the software is unable to discern what the words are, captchas then step in, and we humans get to identify them when logging into our favorite sites. As people correctly identify the words in the captchas, they’re then sent back the other way, thus completing the digitization of the text in question.

Using this method, people were able to help complete the archive of the 1908 New York Times. Pretty neat, and nice to my freaking out at entering the wrong word over and over again may actually serve some greater purpose.