In 2005, then-Carnegie Mellon PhD grad student Luis von Ahn had an idea for a game. In one of the first examples of true crowdsourcing, he had people looking at images and labeling them to improve image search. Google acquired ESP Game in 2005 and renamed it Google Image Labeler.
In 2007, now-Professor von Ahn had another idea. He realized that all the time people wasted typing in CAPTCHAs could be used for some good: helping to digitize books. Out of Carnegie Mellon he launched the project as reCAPTCHA, a startup. And guess what? In 2009, Google bought it as well.
Now von Ahn is back again.
Duolingo is his latest project. It has been blowing up on Hacker News for the past day, though not too much is known about it. But we got a chance to get a bit more out of von Ahn, and not surprisingly, the idea is very cool.
Meet Duolingo, Google’s Next Acquisition Target; Learn A Language, Help The Web