reCaptcha – Stop Spam. Read Books.

Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn‘s latest creation reCaptcha is yet another great example of bionic software on steroids.
You’ll remember Luis von Ahn as the creator of ESP Game (licensed to Google as their Image Labeler) and derivative works Phetch and Peekaboom, but what is less known is that von Ahn is the person behind captchas, version 1.0.

reCaptcha makes captchas more useful than just preventing spam; by tapping into the reportedly 150.000 hours spent daily typing in captchas, reCaptcha has users proofread book text that OCR could not recognize and which would otherwise have to farmed out to a Mechanical Turk or other distributed proofreader.
Breaking up scanned text into small chunks for distributed processing by humans has been seen in various forms previously, including in banner ads (by inChorus, formerly Mycroft), but reCaptcha’s ingeniousness lies in making an otherwise cumbersome task worthwhile every single time.

One can only speculate whether von Ahn have taken inspiration from ingenious spammers who were cracking captchas by asking users to solve captchas inlined from Hotmail and Y! mail in exchange for porn.
He who laughs last, laughs best. Will that be “Stop spam. Read books.” or “Read Books. View Porn.”?