While following the news about Microsoft's TechFest 2007, which focusses many of its innovations, I came across a peculiar service. Called Asirra (Animal Species Image Recognition for Restricting Access) , it basically plans to provide a service wherein humans would be distinguished from robots by asking the user to identify whether the image is that of a cat or a dog ! Surprising, isn't it? This challenge is often called the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). And is very important these days to make sure that automated programs are not filling up forms or posting stuff on your website.
Currently such a distinction is established using images, with garbled/corrupted letters that have to be typed in by the user. (Remember all those times when you have been asked to do so on creation of email IDs or when posting on some blogs?). These are being widely used in websites but as Microsoft says are "Unfortunately, such challenges can be difficult and frustrating for people, yet are often easily solved by computers".
So, the solution ,it says, lies in asking users to identify whether a photo (a 'real' photo courtesy PetFinder.com) is that of a cat or dog. According to Microsoft, "This task difficult for computers, but our user studies have shown that people can accomplish it quickly and accurately. Many even think it's fun!". And then, it will also show an 'Adopt Me!' link below each image, which will support PetFinder's mission of finding home for these animals. And Microsoft aims to provide this as a service to website owners for identification on their website. I just tried the test on Asirra's website, which had 12 images of cats/dogs and 2 out of four times it flashed 'You are a bot!', because I identified one photo wrongly. (This was because the pic was a long distance shot and it was very difficult to identify the hairy animal in that small pic!). Only time will tell how effective, fun (and less frustrating !!) this system is for the visitors. Lets hope we see many cute puppies & kitten everyday on websites !!
(Images courtesy : www.asirra.com)