This is called a ‘reCAPTCHA’, and its purpose is to make sure that you aren’t a robot posting spam comments, or submitting forms for no reason. The idea behind it was that computers find it difficult to analyse an image like this and produce the text on display, whereas a real person wouldn’t have too much trouble. However, no system is perfect, and people managed to write bots that could decipher these images which would allow them to bypass the CAPTCHA and continue posting spam.

A recent piece of research by Google showed that today’s Artificial Intelligence technology is able to solve even the most distorted image, at 99.8% accuracy! It was clear that another method of preventing bots from pretending to be human was needed, as relying on a distorted image alone was no longer dependable.

And so Google came up with the ‘no CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA’.

This new method of spam prevention was built with ease of use in mind. With the old reCAPTCHA system, the images were growing increasingly more distorted to keep up with current Artificial Intelligence technology. As time went on, it became incredibly difficult even for humans to decipher a lot of the reCAPTCHAs, and was labelled ‘a serious barrier to internet use’ for people with sight problems and people with dyslexia.

This new reCAPTCHA initially does away with the distorted image, and instead offers a single tick box for the user to check. An Advanced Risk Analysis engine analyses the user’s engagement with the CAPTCHA to try and figure out if you’re human or not, and in most cases it will get this correct. However, if the risk analysis engine can’t determine whether you are a human, you’ll get moved to the next stage, which can be one of several different tests. Sometimes you will be shown some distorted text just like before, but new tests have been implemented, such as being shown a picture of a cat, and asked to click on all other cat images from a list below. Clicking on cats is thankfully a lot easier than deciphering some heavily distorted text, and it doesn’t pose the same issues for visually impaired or dyslexic people. It also means that CAPTCHAs are more easily solved on a mobile device, where tapping on pictures is a lot easier and quicker than typing in some random words.

This technology is slowly being adopted by big websites, so expect to see these things around in the near future.