Twenty questions

Last week, as Steve and I visited Ed in New York, I noticed a small plastic game about the size of a bar of soap laying on the table. Later, we asked what it was and got a demonstration. It was an electronic version of 20-Questions where the plastic bar of soap did the guessing. Ed invited me to think of something as he served as the machine’s interpreter. We had been watching an interesting, apparently high tech sailboat in the Hudson river, so I guessed “sailboat.” The bar of soap, after asking about 15 or so questions, most having nothing to do with sailing or rivers or anything that sounded remotely close, guessed sailboat. Amazing! We tried some other things and managed to stump the machine, but it got close. (It guessed hankerchief instead of napkin; pirate instead of terrorist.) Naturally, the game has a web version, so you can try it if you like.

DadGames05/21/05 3 comments


David • 05/22/05 8:27 PM:

Interesting. I just did the online version. I used “folder” and “jellyfish”. It guessed folder, but not jellyfish. Very interesting game indeed. It is clear that the game needs to continue to “learn” - many of its so-called contradictions where way wrong. Like whether a jellyfish is smaller than a golfball. I put sometimes, which is true. The other thing I didn’t like about it was its numerous answer possibilities - in 20 Questions you are only allowed to ask YES/NO questions. The game violates this with its very first question.

Patrick • 05/23/05 12:22 AM:

It guessed “mountain” easily enough, and for “wife” it got “human being,” at the last minute, which I guess is ok. Lots of the questions are irrelevant, though. But David, I think its answers are ok. If you were thinking “wife” and a person asked you “Can you use it at night?” you would kind of laugh and say “depends” or something like that, right? And the old Animal, Vegetable, Mineral question is standard. I beat it with “notebook,” probably because I called it a vegetable, and it wanted it to be “other.” Here are some other things that it got wrong:

Would you give it as a gift? You said Yes, I say No.
Does it have a hard outer shell? You said Yes, I say No.
Does it use numbers? You said Maybe, I say No.
Is it used in travel? You said Sometimes, I say No.
Does it bring joy to people? You said Maybe, I say No.
Can it cheer you up? You said Maybe, I say No.
Do you put things in it? You said Yes, I say Doubtful.

The only thing it might have a point with is the last one, if you take “put” literally instead of meaning “write.”

Dan • 05/23/05 1:07 AM:

It got “speaker” on question 17. But it didn’t get “fart” and maybe that’s because it’s impossible to answer the questions for that word, and not because I was laughing.

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