Matt Plays the Hot Game "20Q"
Feb. 15, 2006 -- Action News' Matt O'Donnell hits the streets with something that has people laughing, shrieking, and demanding answers!
You guess something, it tells you what it is in 20 questions. "Oh yeah." "It guessed what you were thinking?" "It's a car." "Yes, it is." "Anyway, I don't know how you did it." Matt O'Donnell: "But it wasn't me. It's a computer game called 20 Q." It's based on the classic word game of 20 questions. You think of something, usually an object, and the computer eventually guesses what it is. The game is smart, shockingly smart. Robin Burgener: "I put it together, and on the first try it worked beautifully." Robin Burgener is a computer programmer from Ottawa, Canada. He invented 20 Q in 1988 as a way to build artificial intelligence. The more people play it, the smarter it gets.
By 1995, Burgener put the game on the internet. At one point, intense interest overloaded his hard drive. Today, the game is offered as a hand-held device in stores. Its web version, at 20q.net, has been played more than 25 million times. Burgener: "I never envisioned 10 million units last year." Action News took the 20 Q game to the streets, specifically, Rittenhouse Square during the lunch hour.
Next question, does it live in groups? "Yes."
Does it help accomplish tasks? "Yes."
We played a portable 20 Q, with six different people. The game guessed what our subjects were thinking, five out of the six times.
"It's a shirt....whoa!" "There you go." You are thinking of a motorcycle."Are you kidding me?" Catherine Gatenby/Rittenhouse Square: "A video camera! Oh my God, that's pretty fun." It was wrong only once. Most were rather impressed. Joe Albert/South Philadelphia: "If I didn't have some idea of what's going on, I think I'd be a little scared. That's amazing." At least one was a bit annoyed. "Was that fun?" Jasmin Jones/MOUNT AIRY: "No." Each game sold on the market is developed from trained programs online, played by thousands upon thousands of people. Its neural center, or brain, is said to have the same complexity of a fly. Burgener: "People are just completely astounded." What's more, 20 Q has, according to its inventor, developed a personality. Burgener says the computer has good days, and bad days, like everyone else. It gets cocky, and it gets testy. "I feel like having words with it." Burgener has lofty goals for 20 Q. He hopes the technology will be used for medical diagnosis, and to help identify hazardous materials.
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