Google AI that solves reCAPTCHAs is now cracking address numbers in Street View

Google Street View car on the road (close up)

When Google’s Street View cars drive up and down the streets of a town, they don’t just collect images. They also log addresses, which helps match Street View with Maps. It’s much faster to have a computer do the matching, so Google relies on artificial intelligence to pick out address numbers and decide what they mean.

Street View addresses cracked by the algorithm. Photo courtesy of Google.

Street View addresses cracked by the algorithm. Photo courtesy of Google.

Google said today that its address recognition will get a boost from another development–an algorithm that can crack Google’s version of the CAPTCHA, known as reCAPTCHA, with more than 99 percent accuracy. While humans don’t have too much trouble picking out characters that are jumbled, computers have a very hard time deciphering where one letter ends and the next begins. Google’s new algorithm comes much closer to a human level of recognition.

reCAPTCHAAs artificial intelligence and internet bots have improved, the longstanding and very annoying CAPTCHA system has come under strain. Vicarious, an artificial intelligence company that received $40 million in funding in March, built an algorithm last year that was able to crack any type of CAPTCHA with an accuracy of at least 90 percent. Its effectiveness came from its ability to pick out characters even when they were squished together or overlapping.

But Google says not to worry. It used its findings with the algorithm to improve reCAPTCHAS not by making them more difficult, but by incorporating other factors that analyze whether it is a human or a bot on the other end. It has actually made reCAPTCHAS clearer as a result. And the algorithm is now busy crunching address numbers for the Street View team.

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