Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Today our warmest congratulations go out to a notable young computer scientist, Dr. Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University. Based on his work in cryptography, AI, and natural intelligence, Luis has just been recognized as a Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation, which has granted him a "genius" award.
A major thread of his research is about human computation that can't currently be emulated by computers. (Together with colleagues he developed the CAPTCHA system, which has of course found widespread commercial application in preventing automated-generated spam.) He also works in the area of cryptography known as steganography. Unlike standard encrypted communications, a steganographic message disguises the fact that it contains a secret; one example is a text message subtly embedded in the bits that encode a digital photograph. He's also developing systems for characterizing visual images in ways that can vastly improve their searchability, and which help to build a rich database for exploring human visual cognition. (We've developed the Google Image Labeler based on his groundbreaking work in this area.)
Around here, we like to quote Isaac Newton's phrase about "standing on the shoulders of giants." Clearly, Luis is one of these.