Solving CAPTCHAs - the text puzzles with distorted letters that many sites use to ensure that you are human - has become a daily reality for many Internet users. Sadly, these tests are often a major source of frustration, too. And while CAPTCHAs are used to provide a decent level of security for site owners, many of these systems have now been broken or are getting gamed by hackers who simply hire cheap workers to solve them manually. NuCaptcha, a Vancouver, B.C.-based company, aims to change all of this with a new video captcha system that launches today.

With NuCaptcha, users see a moving text over an animated background. NuCaptcha then shows three red letters as part of a sentence that flows through the video, and users type these three letters to solve the video CAPTCHA. As an accessibility feature, NuCaptcha also offers voiceover audio. Developers will be able to choose between different themes for their sites. NuCaptcha is also thinking about giving developers the option to bring their own brands and videos to the CAPTCHAs on their site in the future. The company's system should also work on devices that don't support Flash, though we weren't able to test this yet.

Reducing Frustration and Increasing Conversion

According to a recent study (PDF), about 25% of users' attempts to solve CAPTCHAs from reCAPTCHA simply fail. For businesses that use services like reCAPTCHA, this means that a quite a few of potential users are likely to abandon the registration or shopping process. For other CAPTCHA services from Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, and on sites like Digg.com and Slashdot, which implement their own systems, these numbers are somewhat lower, but even there, more than 10% of attempts to solve a given CAPTCHA end in failure.

NuCaptcha argues that 99% of its users are able to solve the company's video CAPTCHAs. While we can't test the company's numbers, we did get a chance to test the system, and the tests were indeed very easy to solve.

How NuCaptcha Fights Hackers and Human "Solvers"

As the company's CEO and co-founder Michel Giasson told us earlier this week, it is extremely easy for humans to solve these moving CAPTCHAs. Machines, however, have a very hard time with this. To discourage paid human "solvers," the company uses sophisticated machine learning algorithms to detect potential abuse of the system and then slows the video CAPTCHA down to the point where solving it becomes too time consuming and costly. According to Giasson, professional human CAPTCHA solvers need about four seconds per CAPTCHA. When NuCaptcha suspects that sombody is abusing the system, it can slow its text scroll down to the point where it takes more than 15 seconds to even display the CAPTCHA text.