BBC: "Captcha test 'cracked' by US firm Vicarious"

Nov 13, 2013

A US-based start-up claims to have broken security tests used to tell humans and computers apart online. Vicarious said it had developed technology, based on the human brain, which could solve text-based Captcha tests 90% of the time. A Captcha is a graphic or sound users must type on to a web page to prove they are human. The company said its artificial intelligence software can also perceive images.

The company said it had used its Recursive Cortical Network software to solve Captcha tests as a step towards thinking machines, not for nefarious purposes. Vicarious hopes eventually to use the technology for robotics, medical image analysis, and online searching. “The Vicarious algorithms achieve a level of effectiveness and efficiency much closer to actual human brains,” Vicarious co-founder D Scott Phoenix said in a statement.

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Forbes: "AI Startup Vicarious Claims Milestone In Quest To Build A Brain: Cracking CAPTCHA"

Nov 13, 2013

Can machines think? Not yet. But there is one at least partial test: the CAPTCHA, or “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” those distorted characters you have to type into a website that wants to repel automated programs from spamming or making comments in blogs. Because CAPTCHAs by definition are intended to be recognizable only by humans, they’re widely considered one test of whether a machine can at least display a visual understanding close to that of people.

On Monday, the artificial intelligence startup Vicarious will release the results of a test, shown in a video, that it says shows its early prototype software can solve CAPTCHAs reliably. In particular, two of the three-year-old company’s cofounders, Dileep George and D. Scott Phoenix, say the AI software can solve Google’s GOOG +1.6% reCAPTCHA, the most widely used test of a computer’s ability to act like a human being.

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Science: "CAPTCHA Busted? AI Company Claims to Have Broken the Internet's Favorite Protection System"

Nov 13, 2013

But more exciting, this might be a major breakthrough in computer science. Creating machines that can see the world and make sense of images as humans do is one of the “hard problems” in artificial intelligence. Breaking CAPTCHA is a milestone on that road—if Vicarious has pulled it off.

If the new algorithm does indeed solve a deeper problem in machine vision, and is indeed as good as human vision at solving any CAPTCHA-like problem, then this is breakthrough territory. That is exactly what is being claimed. In fact, Vicarious’s researchers go on to claim that their algorithm works in an analogous way to the human brain.

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Scientific American: "Software Firm Claims Breakthrough in Computer Vision Will Lead to Better AI"

Nov 13, 2013

The start-up Vicarious, based in San Francisco, Calif., claims it has come up with artificial intelligence (AI) software that reads images nearly as well as humans and can crack a CAPTCHA 90 percent of the time. If the claims are true, they could signify a breakthrough in building AI that is indistinguishable from human cognition—at least when it comes to helping computers identify and understand images.

Vicarious calls the architecture its AI system is based on a “recursive cortical network,” meaning it is modeled along the line of the human neocortex—the brain’s gray matter that processes information. This approach allows AI software to learn new things from a few examples, much as a human child comes to understand the world by learning to recognize what he sees and figuring out how the images are connected.

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Vicarious AI passes first Turing Test: CAPTCHA

Oct 27, 2013

San Francisco, CA – Vicarious (, a startup developing artificial intelligence software, today announced that its algorithms can now reliably solve modern CAPTCHAs, including Google’s reCAPTCHA, the world’s most widely used test of a machine’s ability to act human.

A CAPTCHA scheme is considered broken if an algorithm is able to reach a precision of at least 1%.[1] By leveraging core insights from machine learning and neuroscience, the Vicarious AI achieves success rates up to 90% on modern CAPTCHAs from Google, Yahoo, PayPal,, and others. This advancement renders text-based CAPTCHAs no longer effective as a Turing test.

“Recent AI systems like IBM’s Watson and deep neural networks rely on brute force: connecting massive computing power to massive datasets. This is the first time this distinctively human act of perception has been achieved, and it uses relatively minuscule amounts of data and computing power. The Vicarious algorithms achieve a level of effectiveness and efficiency much closer to actual human brains”, said Vicarious co-founder D. Scott Phoenix.

“Understanding how brain creates intelligence is the ultimate scientific challenge. Vicarious has a long term strategy for developing human level artificial intelligence, and it starts with building a brain-like vision system. Modern CAPTCHAs provide a snapshot of the challenges of visual perception, and solving those in a general way required us to understand how the brain does it”, said Vicarious co-founder Dr. Dileep George.

Solving CAPTCHA is the first public demonstration of the capabilities of Vicarious’ Recursive Cortical Network (RCN) technology. Although still many years away, the commercial applications of RCN will have broad implications for robotics, medical image analysis, image and video search, and many other fields.

“We should be careful not to underestimate the significance of Vicarious crossing this milestone,” said Facebook co-founder and board member Dustin Moskovitz. “This is an exciting time for artificial intelligence research, and they are at the forefront of building the first truly intelligent machines.”

About Vicarious

Vicarious is an artificial intelligence company that uses the computational principles of the brain to build software that can think and learn like a human. The company was founded in 2010 by D. Scott Phoenix and Dr. Dileep George. Before co-founding Vicarious, Mr. Phoenix was Entrepreneur in Residence at Founders Fund and CEO of Frogmetrics, a touchscreen analytics company he co-founded through the Y Combinator incubator program. Previously Dr. George was Chief Technology Officer at Numenta, a company he co-founded with Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky (PALM, HAND) while completing his PhD at Stanford University. For more information about Vicarious, please visit

[1] Text-based CAPTCHA Strengths and Weaknesses
Elie Bursztein, Matthieu Martin, and John C. Mitchell. Stanford University. ACM Conference 2011.

WSJ: "Betting Big on Bionic Brains"

Nov 26, 2012

When an IBM IBM -0.33% computer program called Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997, wise folk opined that since chess was just a game of logic, this was neither significant nor surprising. Mastering the subtleties of human language, including similes, puns and humor, would remain far beyond the reach of a computer.

Last year another IBM program, Watson, triumphed at just these challenges by winning “Jeopardy!” (Sample achievement: Watson worked out that a long, tiresome speech delivered by a frothy pie topping was a “meringue harangue.”) So is it time to take seriously the prospect of artificial intelligence emulating human abilities?

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NYT: "Scientists See Promise in Deep-Learning Programs"

Nov 25, 2012

Using an artificial intelligence technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs.

“There has been a number of stunning new results with deep-learning methods,” said Yann LeCun, a computer scientist at New York University who did pioneering research in handwriting recognition at Bell Laboratories. “The kind of jump we are seeing in the accuracy of these systems is very rare indeed.”

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MIT Technology Review: "A Startup Tries to Make a Better Artificial Brain"

Oct 10, 2012

Your eyes work with your brain to teach you about the world. You learn to recognize objects, people, and places, and you learn to imagine new things. A startup called Vicarious thinks computers could learn to do likewise, and it’s building software that tries to process visual information the way the brain does. Vicarious hopes to combine neuroscience and computer science to create a visual perception system inspired by the neocortex, the wrinkly outer portion of the brain that deals with speaking, hearing, seeing, moving, and other functions.

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NBC Press:Here interviews Vicarious co-founder Dileep George

Oct 8, 2012

KurzweilAI: "A new computational paradigm: the Recursive Cortical Network"

Sep 5, 2012

Since its launch in February 2011, the company has developed a visual perception system that interprets the contents of photographs and videos in a manner similar to humans. Powering this technology is Vicarious’ key innovation: a new computational paradigm called the Recursive Cortical Network (RCN). “After we started Vicarious, we had the freedom of a clean slate and could look at the problem with fresh eyes. Our goals have always been to embody the computational principles of the brain in a mathematical model, but RCN is a ground-up rethinking of what kind of algorithmic approach is necessary to solve the problem.”

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