April 24, 2012 at 4:24 PM ET
One of the most frustrating parts of logging into some websites is trying to solve a "captcha," the jumbled, slanted and often maddeningly indecipherable group of letters used to verify that you are in fact a human and not an automated "bot," or program.
The Detroit-based tech company Are You A Human offers a new alternative to captchas: simple games that could revolutionize authentication by keeping users' eyes from crossing and their blood pressure from skyrocketing.
The company's solution, PlayThru, promises to stop bots with games that users must complete to prove they are real people.
In one PlayThru game, several items — a shoe, a football jersey, an olive and a piece of bacon — float beside a picture of a pizza. If you correctly drag the olive and bacon over to the pizza, you've succeeded; the game recognizes your human tendencies.
If you fail, you are a terrible cook and most likely a robot. You can try for yourself at Are You A Human's demonstration page.
By replacing an annoying word puzzle with a user-friendly game, the company says, websites can retain impatient visitors who would otherwise leave. Are You A Human's games are based on both Flash and HTML5, and work on computers as well as mobile devices.
Are You A Human co-founder Ben Blackmer told The Huffington Post that he and fellow University of Michigan business students Tyler Paxton and Reid Tatoris founded the company after witnessing firsthand the failure of captchas.
A co-worker of Paxton's had discovered that automated ticket bots had cracked the captcha of the ticket site for a 2007 Hannah Montana concert, leaving no available tickets for the co-worker to buy for his kids.
"Tyler did some noodling and came up with the idea of [how] you could 'game-ify' that space," Blackmer said.
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