It was said, back in the days of Asimov, that computers will one day think like the human brain. Vicarious, a start up based in San Francisco, has set out to prove that the future is, indeed, here. How? By creating a computer that can crack CAPTCHA codes.
No Longer For Human Eyes Only
CAPTCHA codes were first created as a way for computers to determine whether or not users are human. The concept behind these codes is that only a human brain can see, understand, and compute CAPTCHA letters. Vicarious has told Reuters reports this morning that the computer created by the startup can tap into these codes - no human brain needed.
But, let's be skeptical for a moment. Vicarious has not tole press how the computer works. Further, the company has failed to publish any real intelligence into the technology in journals or otherwise. Also, Vicarious' next technology is not for sale, and company reps claim that this code-breaking computer is simply an experiment. It would be a lot easier to believe that Vicarious has cracked the code (so to speak) if the company could show actual proof. For now, though, critics remain dubious.
What This Could Mean
If Vicarious has actually created a computer that can crack CAPTCHA codes, this would mean that the codes are no longer useful. Most sites that rely on CAPTCHA codes do so in order to prevent spammers from signing up for multiple accounts. If Vicarious has created software that doesn't require a human brain or human interaction, the codes would be useless.
For obvious reasons, Vicarious could stand to make a ton of money from the new CAPTCHA-cracking software. But, again, this startup isn't selling the tech yet. The company has already gained around $15 million in funding from various supporters and backers, so maybe there is some truth to this claim. After all, most backers wouldn't drop dollars unless some proof could be found.
A CAPTCHA-less Future
If CAPTCHA codes no longer work, what will this mean for sites attempting to prevent multiple sign-ins? It may mean that users can create as many accounts as wanted. It may also mean that security is becoming even less stable - a scary notion.
There might be a silver lining here too, though.
Some companies, like Google, use bits and pieces of old books as CAPTCHA codes (according to Reuters). The goal here is to turn those old print books into digital copies by asking users to sign into sites using CAPTCHAs. It may sound kind of nutty, but it's one way to create a lot of digital books. If Vicarious' technology can sign into sites using CAPTCHA codes more quickly, those books can be translated into digital form much faster.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Vicarious publishes a paper letting the world know how this new technology works. In the meantime, we'll just have to wait and see whether or not CAPTCHAs become a thing of the past - and what the future might look like.