Ramona’s challenge

Yesterday, I got a challenge from Ramona Meharg that I couldn’t ignore.

I like things that are artificial intelligence-y and this seemed to have that type of approach so I gave it a shot.

The website is called Akinator.

The concept is pretty simple; sort of a digital spin to the 20 questions game that we played as kids.  When I had visited the site, there had been 700847537 games played.  That’s quite impressive.

So, ever up for the challenge, I gave it a shot.  I wanted badly to win so I chose something Canadian – hockey and just pulled a name out of my memory but then felt guilty and went with a name that might be more well known – Bobby Orr.  And, I lost.  Or rather the Akinator won.


That was impressive.

How would it do with my original choice – Jean Beliveau?

How’s this for close?


Ah, I’ve still got it!

What was interesting was the followup where I could provide details so that the next player might not be so lucky.  In other words, Akinator was learning.

Anyway, it’s 1 and 1 for me.

Are you up to the challenge?  If you’re interested in using it in the classroom, there is a child mode.  I didn’t test it extensively but none of the questions that I was asked were inappropriate.

So, thanks, Ramona.

4 thoughts on “Ramona’s challenge

  1. Ah, Akinator!

    I remember playing this when it first came along. At the time, it made me think of three things:
    • 20 questions
    • the Eliza program
    • a dichotomous key

    Of course we play 20 questions as kids. Over time we learned some strategies.

    I first encountered the Eliza program for real (rather than just as a reference in a CompSci lecture) at the Ontario Science Centre circa 1985 in the Hall of Technology. There were four Macs with this new-dangled mouse thingy running MacPaint on a round, child-height table sitting right beside a glass enclosed Vax mainframe with two connected terminals running Eliza. The Macs got the most attention, but it was fun to try and have a sensible conversation with Eliza that didn’t degenerate into something nonsensical.

    “Why don’t you tell me more about why can’t a computer wreck a nice beach?”

    I didn’t major in biology, so it wasn’t until I was teaching grade 8 science that I ran into a dichotomous key. What a great tool for help sorting everything into a huge map based on yes and no questions. Of course, you have to ask the right questions!

    Enter Akinator! It was one of the first fun apps to come along on the iPhone!

    The game has the potential to learn—but it is also only as good as the answers that you feed back into it.
    It took upwards of 45 questions for it to identify Marvels The Wasp – Janet Van Dyne. I may have led it astray somewhere around the 20th question with a wrong answer. I will need to cycle back and change one answer that I was unsure of, and see if it can be successful within 20 …


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