Captcha codes – It’s not uncommon to feel frustrated every time you spend 10 seconds…or in some cases, 10 minutes trying to work out if that’s a g or a q.

We know they exist for a reason, but there’s no denying the annoyance of repeatedly ‘wasting’ away valuable seconds deciphering these security enhancing codes.

Luis Von Ahn, the brains behind Captcha codes shares the same concern.

Initially he was rather chuffed that 200 millions captcha codes were being typed on a daily basis, then it hit him…
200 million x 10seconds = 500,000 hours every day being “wasted” typing these annoying captchas.
The solution? Re Captcha.
The premise? Basically – to put this ‘wasted’ time to good use, by getting each user to translate a word that had been scanned from a book, therefore digitizing all of this human knowledge. Yes, those near-impossible-to-read words, are actually scans from a bunch of old books that are now being immortalized on the web.
Pretty neat huh?
Most would stop there, happy with their feat, but Von Ahn’s brain just wouldn’t stop ticking. If 750,000,000 people have each digitized at least one word of a book using Re Captcha, what else could they achieve? Large scale collaborations have produced some of mans most incredible feats; The Panama Canal, space travel…the list goes on.
Several projects later, Von Ahn posed this question to his graduate student Sevren Hacker:
How can we get hundreds of millions of people to translate the web into every major language, for free?
The ingenious idea that followed is probably one of our favourite things on the Internet.
Introducing Duo Lingo.
You learn a language, for free, whilst simultaneously translating the Internet (yes, the entire internet) into other languages, so that non-English speakers are able to access information they never had access to before.
Yep – you’ll be hola-ing your way through Barcelona before you know it, all the while contributing to making information accessible to millions of other people.

Check out the TED talk from Von Ahn himself, for more info.

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