I don’t have time for a full blown Google rant today, but I was forward this link today and I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is Google’s “What’s Up” CAPTCHA. You know, when I first heard about it it was described to me as “a picture and you have to tell it which way is up”. So my first reaction was “that’s a terrible CAPTCHA - only one in four chance.” Well, it’s not that bad. If you actually read the paper it’s actually a 1/22 chance (assuming no optimizations).
There are other problems with this though - like the fact that it relies on a set of pictures and someone has to make a judgment call on what is the correct position. I bet it’s easier to solve for humans, but it’s also fairly trivial for robots to solve too. CAPTCHA - what does that mean anyway? Let’s see if Google’s project meets the definition:
Completely Automated - Google employees need to make judgment calls ahead of time on each image orientation, so this requirement of a true CAPTCHA fails and incidentally adds a hidden cost to using the “What’s up” CAPTCHA, although it might not be huge, if you make the set small (which would cause other problems).
Public - well, as public as anything Google does is public. It’s not open source or anything, but it’s out there.
Turing Test to tell Computers - I would argue that it’s not a Turing test at all, because if you have a set of 45 robots that try only one guess a piece Google’s “What’s up” will fail to catch two of them. And again - that’s with zero optimizations. Second major failure making this not actually a CAPTCHA.
Someone with far greater math skills than I will some day create the mathematical proof that explains why CAPTCHAs aren’t technically achievable. It’s possible to create tests that are vaguely good at telling computers and humans apart (CAPVGTCHAs perhaps?) but unless my understanding of the universe is way off base, I think CAPTCHAs are modern day perpetual motion machines. Everyone thinks they get it and it can work, but it’s never been done, and no one has come even close, in my mind. Sorry, I know this wasn’t as good a Google rant as I normally come up with, but as one of their guys over there recently told me, “You don’t call, you don’t rant…” I know… too busy!