Google Inc. has acquired a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company that uses word puzzles to protect computer users from spam and fraud.
Google said Wednesday that it has bought ReCaptcha Inc., a CMU spin-off that develops online puzzles to boost computer security. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Luis von Ahn, an assistant professor of computer science at CMU, founded ReCaptcha in 2008. The company uses puzzles with squiggly words and numbers that humans can read but computers cannot.
Words in the puzzles come from old books and newspapers whose ink and paper have degraded -- hampering the ability of computers to recognize them. As a result, when humans solve the puzzles, they help digitize the old material by teaching computers how to read it.
According to Google, its latest acquisition protects more than 100,000 Web sites from malicious programs that do tasks, ranging from scalping tickets to acquiring millions of e-mail addresses for spamming.
"Google is the best fit for ReCaptcha," von Ahn said in a statement. "From the very beginning, people often assumed the project was connected to Google, so it only makes sense that ReCaptcha Inc. ultimately would find a home within Google."
The technology used by ReCaptcha also is used in huge text- scanning projects, such as Google Books and Google News Archive Search, that will aid visually impaired users. …