Recaptcha Image Recognition

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Captcha if you can: how you've been training AI for years ...

Captcha if you can: how you’ve been training AI for years …

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Congratulations are in order. You, yes you, dear reader, have been part of something incredible. Thanks to your hard work, millions of books containing pretty much the sum-total of human knowledge have been successfully digitised, saving their texts for future generations. All because of, know how occasionally you’ll be prompted with a “Captcha” when filling out a form on the internet, to prove that you’re fully human? Behind the scenes of one of the most popular Captcha systems – Google’s Recaptcha – your humanoid clicks have been helping figure out things that traditional computing just can’t manage, and in the process you’ve been helping to train Google’s AI to be even you thought you were merely logging into some website or Recaptcha (or “reCATCHA” if you prefer) started out as a collaboration by a number of computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, first released in 2007 – and it was quickly snaffled up by Google in 2009. The premise was as described above: by marrying up users who need to prove they are human to data that needs transcribing, both sides get something out of instead of digitising books by having one person carry out the very boring task of typing or checking a whole book manually, instead millions of people can unknowingly collaborate to achieve the same goal. Remember how it always used to be two words you had to enter? Conceivably, only one was the “real” test, and the other was a new word that was yet to be transcribed – but as the user you wouldn’t know which was which, so you’d have to attempt to do both Google Books app on Android. Recaptcha can even check its own work. By showing the same words to multiple users, it can automatically verify that a word has been transcribed correctly by comparing multiple attempts from multiple users across the azingly, thanks to Recaptcha boxes appearing on thousands of major websites and receiving tens of millions of completions a day, by 2011 Recaptcha had finished digitising the entire Google Books archive – as well as 13 million articles from the New York Times back-catalogue dating back to what did Google do next, with no books left to digitise? In what was perhaps a happy coincidence, this coincided with the growth of artificial intelligence and machine aining montageIn 2012, Google started including not just words, but snippets of photos from Google Street View – making users transcribe door numbers and other signage. And in 2014, the system became all about training sentially, the way machine learning works is that you hand the machine a bunch of data that is already sorted – say, a bunch of images of cats that you have tagged as cats, and then it uses this information to build a neural network that enables it to pick the cats out of other images. The more pictures of cats that you feed it, the more accurate the AI becomes at picking out cats from other images. A cat. Just in case you weren’t sure. Google has countless reasons to want to train AI to recognise objects in images: better Google Image Search results, more accurate Google Maps results, and enabling you to search your Google Photos library for all of the photos you have taken of a specific object or place. Oh, and the small matter of making sure that your driverless car doesn’t hit anything. You know when Recaptcha 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 it is hugely convenient then that Google has as its disposal hundreds of millions of internet users to work for it: by using Recaptcha 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 ‘s Waymo driverless car system. This is why currently, instead of simply throwing up some text, Recaptcha is giving users more image-related tasks: “Click all of the images of cats”, “Click all of the boxes on the grid overlaying an image that contain a cat”, and so on. For thousands of different is a particularly useful asset for Google, as it competes with other internet giants to grow its machine learning datasets and algorithms: The more data it can analyse, the better results will be – giving its current and future products a competitive AI to beat AIAmusingly, there is only one problem with using captchas to train machine learning algorithms. What’s to stop, for example, people who want to get around captchas from using machine learning against captchas? Last year developer Francis Kim built a proof of concept means to beat Recaptcha by using Google’s machine learning abilities against it. In just 40 lines of Javascript, he was able to build a system that uses the rival Clarifai image recognition API to look at the images Google’s Recaptcha throws up, and identify the objects the captcha requires. So if Recaptcha demands the user select images of storefronts to prove their humanity, Clarifai is able to pick them out nceivably too, this sort of thing would also be possible using Google’s own technology. Because Google wants to sell its clever tech to other companies, it opens TensorFlow up to developers through an API itself. This means that you could conceivably use TensorFlow to trick the Captcha that trains TensorFlow. This wouldn’t work 100% of the time – but once an AI is sufficiently well trained, it should be able to do the trick in a large number of ’s clear from Recaptcha is not just that it is an ingenious idea, but also that thanks to our hard work, it is getting increasingly difficult to separate us humans from the Radar’s AI Week is brought to you in association with Honor.
Why CAPTCHAs have gotten so difficult - The Verge

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Why CAPTCHAs have gotten so difficult – The Verge

At some point last year, Google’s constant requests to prove I’m human began to feel increasingly aggressive. More and more, the simple, slightly too-cute button saying “I’m not a robot” was followed by demands to prove it — by selecting all the traffic lights, crosswalks, and storefronts in an image grid. Soon the traffic lights were buried in distant foliage, the crosswalks warped and half around a corner, the storefront signage blurry and in Korean. There’s something uniquely dispiriting about being asked to identify a fire hydrant and struggling at it.
These tests are called CAPTCHA, an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, and they’ve reached this sort of inscrutability plateau before. In the early 2000s, simple images of text were enough to stump most spambots. But a decade later, after Google had bought the program from Carnegie Mellon researchers and was using it to digitize Google Books, texts had to be increasingly warped and obscured to stay ahead of improving optical character recognition programs — programs which, in a roundabout way, all those humans solving CAPTCHAs were helping to improve.
Because CAPTCHA is such an elegant tool for training AI, any given test could only ever be temporary, something its inventors acknowledged at the outset. With all those researchers, scammers, and ordinary humans solving billions of puzzles just at the threshold of what AI can do, at some point the machines were going to pass us by. In 2014, Google pitted one of its machine learning algorithms against humans in solving the most distorted text CAPTCHAs: the computer got the test right 99. 8 percent of the time, while the humans got a mere 33 percent.
Google then moved to NoCaptcha ReCaptcha, which observes user data and behavior to let some humans pass through with a click of the “I’m not a robot” button, and presents others with the image labeling we see today. But the machines are once again catching up. All those awnings that may or may not be storefronts? They’re the endgame in humanity’s arms race with the machines.
Jason Polakis, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, takes personal credit for the recent increase in CAPTCHA difficulty. In 2016, he published a paper in which he used off-the-shelf image recognition tools, including Google’s own reverse image search, to solve Google’s image CAPTCHAs with 70 percent accuracy. Other researchers have broken Google’s audio CAPTCHA challenges using Google’s own audio recognition programs.
Machine learning is now about as good as humans at basic text, image, and voice recognition tasks, Polakis says. In fact, algorithms are probably better at it: “We’re at a point where making it harder for software ends up making it too hard for many people. We need some alternative, but there’s not a concrete plan yet. ”
The literature on CAPTCHA is littered with false starts and strange attempts at finding something other than text or image recognition that humans are universally good at and machines struggle with. Researchers have tried asking users to classify images of people by facial expression, gender, and ethnicity. (You can imagine how well that went. ) There have been proposals for trivia CAPTCHAs, and CAPTCHAs based on nursery rhymes common in the area where a user purportedly grew up. Such cultural CAPTCHAs are aimed not just at bots, but at the humans working in overseas CAPTCHA farms solving puzzles for fractions of a cent. People have tried stymying image recognition by asking users to identify, say, pigs, but making the pigs cartoons and giving them sunglasses. Researchers have looked into asking users to identify objects in Magic Eye-like blotches. In an intriguing variation, researchers in 2010 proposed using CAPTCHAs to index ancient petroglyphs, computers not being very good at deciphering gestural sketches of reindeer scrawled on cave walls.
Recently there have been efforts to develop game-like CAPTCHAs, tests that require users to rotate objects to certain angles or move puzzle pieces into position, with instructions given not in text but in symbols or implied by the context of the game board. The hope is that humans would understand the puzzle’s logic but computers, lacking clear instructions, would be stumped. Other researchers have tried to exploit the fact that humans have bodies, using device cameras or augmented reality for interactive proof of humanity.
The problem with many of these tests isn’t necessarily that bots are too clever — it’s that humans suck at them. And it’s not that humans are dumb; it’s that humans are wildly diverse in language, culture, and experience. Once you get rid of all that stuff to make a test that any human can pass, without prior training or much thought, you’re left with brute tasks like image processing, exactly the thing a tailor-made AI is going to be good at.
“The tests are limited by human capabilities, ” Polakis says. “It’s not only our physical capabilities, you need something that [can] cross cultural, cross language. You need some type of challenge that works with someone from Greece, someone from Chicago, someone from South Africa, Iran, and Australia at the same time. And it has to be independent from cultural intricacies and differences. You need something that’s easy for an average human, it shouldn’t be bound to a specific subgroup of people, and it should be hard for computers at the same time. That’s very limiting in what you can actually do. And it has to be something that a human can do fast, and isn’t too annoying. ”
Figuring out how to fix those blurry image quizzes quickly takes you into philosophical territory: what is the universal human quality that can be demonstrated to a machine, but that no machine can mimic? What is it to be human?
But maybe our humanity isn’t measured by how we perform with a task, but in how we move through the world — or in this case, through the internet. Game CAPTCHAs, video CAPTCHAs, whatever sort of CAPTCHA test you devise will eventually be broken, says Shuman Ghosemajumder, who previously worked at Google combatting click fraud before becoming the chief technology officer of the bot-detection company Shape Security. Rather than tests, he favors something called “continuous authentication, ” essentially observing the behavior of a user and looking for signs of automation. “A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions, even if they try really hard, ” Ghosemajumder says. While a bot will interact with a page without moving a mouse, or by moving a mouse very precisely, human actions have “entropy” that is hard to spoof, Ghosemajumder says.
Google’s own CAPTCHA team is thinking along similar lines. The latest version, reCaptcha v3, announced late last year, uses “adaptive risk analysis” to score traffic according to how suspicious it seems; website owners can then choose to present sketchy users with a challenge, like a password request or two-factor authentication. Google wouldn’t say what factors go into that score, other than that Google observes what a bunch of “good traffic” on a site looks like, according to Cy Khormaee, a product manager on the CAPTCHA team, and uses that to detect “bad traffic. ” Security researchers say it’s likely a mix of cookies, browser attributes, traffic patterns, and other factors. One drawback of the new model of bot detection is that it can make navigating the web while minimizing surveillance an annoying experience, as things like VPNs and anti-tracking extensions can get you flagged as suspicious and challenged.
Aaron Malenfant, the engineering lead on Google’s CAPTCHA team, says the move away from Turing tests is meant to sidestep the competition humans keep losing. “As people put more and more investment into machine learning, those sorts of challenges will have to get harder and harder for humans, and that’s particularly why we launched CAPTCHA V3, to get ahead of that curve. ” Malenfant says that five to ten years from now, CAPTCHA challenges likely won’t be viable at all. Instead, much of the web will have a constant, secret Turing test running in the background.
In his book The Most Human Human, Brian Christian enters a Turing Test competition as the human foil and finds that it’s actually quite difficult to prove your humanity in conversation. On the other hand, bot makers have found it easy to pass, not by being the most eloquent or intelligent conversationalist, but by dodging questions with non sequitur jokes, making typos, or in the case of the bot that won a Turing competition in 2014, claiming to be a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy with a poor grasp of English. After all, to err is human. It’s possible a similar future is in store for CAPTCHA, the most widely used Turing test in the world — a new arms race not to create bots that surpass humans in labeling images and parsing text, but ones that make mistakes, miss buttons, get distracted, and switch tabs. “I think folks are realizing that there is an application for simulating the average human user… or dumb humans, ” Ghosemajumder says.
CAPTCHA tests may persist in this world, too. Amazon received a patent in 2017 for a scheme involving optical illusions and logic puzzles humans have great difficulty in deciphering. Called Turing Test via failure, the only way to pass is to get the answer wrong.
Why captchas are getting harder - Vox

Why captchas are getting harder – Vox

It’s not you — captchas really are getting harder. The worst thing is that you’re partly to blame.
A captcha is a simple test that intends to distinguish between humans and computers. While the test itself is simple, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. The answers we give captchas end up being used to make AI smarter, thus ratcheting up the difficulty of future captcha tests.
Is there any feeling more frustrating than clicking all the correct answers and getting a “please try again”?
Screenshot, Edward Vega
But captchas can be broken by hackers. The tests we’re most familiar with have already been broken. Captcha makers try to stay ahead of the curve but have to balance increasing the difficulty of the test with making sure any person — regardless of age, education, language, etc. — can still pass it. And eventually, they might have to phase out the test almost entirely.
You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. Subscribe to our channel to stay updated.
Correction, May 19: At 5:22 in the video, there is an incorrect statement on Google’s use of reCaptcha V2 data. While Google have used V2 tests to help improve Google Maps, according to an email from Waymo (Google’s self-driving car project), the company isn’t using this image data to train their autonomous cars. For more on the future of self-driving cars, check out this article from Vox’s Kelsey Piper.

Frequently Asked Questions about recaptcha image recognition

Why is CAPTCHA so hard?

While the test itself is simple, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. The answers we give captchas end up being used to make AI smarter, thus ratcheting up the difficulty of future captcha tests. But captchas can be broken by hackers. The tests we’re most familiar with have already been broken.May 14, 2021

Is reCAPTCHA used for AI?

reCAPTCHA also makes positive use of the human effort spent in solving CAPTCHAs by using the solutions to digitize text, annotate images, and build machine-learning datasets. This in turn helps preserve books, improve maps, and solve hard AI problems.Jan 26, 2021

Is CAPTCHA still used?

CAPTCHA isn’t the only way to block spammers. But give CAPTCHA its due: it was one of the original spam blocking measures used way back in 1997 by AltaVista. And, even more impressively, it’s still one of the most effective ways to block spam at its source today. … CAPTCHA is still being followed by many Web Sites.

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