Startup wants to end the pain of illegible Captchas by introducing mini-games instead

PlayThru CaptchaWe’ve all felt the pain of finding a Captcha that’s particularly difficult to decipher, and the bizarre humiliation that seems to go along with getting one wrong too; but as annoying as they can be, they’re a necessary evil in today’s security conscious world.

However, as with everything, there has to be a better way of proving it’s a human trying to gain access to a website, and not a nasty robot intent on causing problems.

Detroit-based startup Are You a Human thought the same thing, and came up with PlayThru, an alternative to the familiar word-based Captcha identification system that draws on the current obsession with the “gamification” of everything in our lives.

Instead of making us type a couple of words into a box, after having worked out what they actually say, PlayThru gives us a short game to play to prove our humanness. They’re not difficult, and are something like those games seen in Flash adverts, where you shoot the ducks to win an iPhone.

A couple of examples can be found on Are You a Human’s website, such as dragging a motorcycle into an open parking space, or placing ingredients on a pizza. Other, non-food based items are zipping around too, and Are You a Human looks at the way we manipulate these things to separate us from the ‘bots.

The games are created using Flash, Javascript and HTML5, so they’re usable on your computer as well as your phone or tablet, regardless of its operating system. The team also points out its games are quicker to solve than traditional Captchas too.

Everything’s a game

The art of turning mundane, or in this case awkward, actions into a game has exploded over the past year, but the concept has been around for much longer — just look at any system where you collect points, frequent flyer miles for example — for proof.

We recently covered how gamification is changing education, and you should check out the RPG-style motivational app Epic Win, or even social tools such as Foursquare to see how it’s becoming more prevalent and diverse.

Even Chevrolet has made driving carefully a game in its Volt electric car, where a gauge on the digital display indicates whether your driving style is optimizing performance, and the idea is to keep it showing green, meaning you’re doing well, as much as possible.

Could PlayThru be next to join the list? It’s certainly more enjoyable than using a regular Captcha, and provided it offers the same or a higher degree of security, there’s no reason why we should have to be locked out of a site due to a box of words we can’t figure out ever again.

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