by Andre on 14 November 2007
You know those squiggly words you need to decipher to post comments on some blogs or to create new accounts at some sites? These can be annoying, but I hate spam as much as the next person so I don’t mind going through the slight extra effort. Now, that little extra effort can be harnessed to do good! Sean at Cosmic Variance describes a talk he attended by the inventor of the method. Basically, by flipping the problem on its head Luis von Ahn realized that all the work people are doing deciphering words could actually be applied to deciphering scanned texts that computers are having trouble with. Genius!
I love these kinds of ideas and it reminds me of one of these projects for taking advantage of large numbers of otherwise idle computers: using Playstation 3s to predict protein structures. A lot of console gaming systems are networked these days, so researchers can use them to simulate proteins when they’re not being used to simulate gun fights.