CAPTCHA, crowdsourcing pioneer von Ahn captures Grace Murray Hopper Award

Carnegie Mellon associate professor sold website protection/book digitization system to Google in 2009

Luis von Ahn, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University best known for his work in protecting websites via crowdsourcing, has been named winner of the 2011 Grace Murray Hopper Award.

The Association for Computing Machinery award recognizes outstanding work from young computer professionals and comes with a $35,000 prize courtesy of Google.

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This isn't the first time Google has forked over money to von Ahn either. In 2009, he sold a business called reCAPTCHA to Google that uses a version of the familiar CAPTCHA website security technology to not only safeguard web transactions but to simultaneously digitize books by having users type in words.

Such crowdsourcing techniques have been at the heart of the 33-year-old von Ahn's work, which he has referred to as "human computation." He was involved in developing the original CAPTCHAs as well, which rely on a combination of human and computer processing to ensure website security.

His latest project, Duolingo, will help people learn foreign languages while translating text on the Web. It's in private beta.

"Professor von Ahn's breakthrough research has changed the game for how we use computers," said ACM President Alain Chesnais, in a statement. "His innovations impact our personal usage of computing devices and make commercial applications of computing more secure. His potential for further altering how we work and play in the digital age seems boundless."

For more on network research, follow Bob Brown via his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.

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