Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The 20Q Engine On...

...the Internets blew my mind at the first go. I read an article on 20Q logic over at Mental Floss and was impressed enough to try my hand at it. Shyam and I used to be reasonably good at 20 Questions in high school and won ourselves the odd prize in school fests. I thought we had a decent system worked out. We have nothing on a neural network.

So, I went to the online 20Q engine and it asked me some questions like age, gender and country. (FWIW, I did not enter India). I then thought up a place.

The Internets started with, 'Is it good for fishing' and went downhill from there (or so I thought). Going by the questions that it asked me, I gave it a very distant chance of guessing the right answer. But it did, by the 25th question (which makes it officially a victory for me). I also come away knowing that 'Is it good for fishing?' is not necessarily a worse first question than 'A-cons?' (A-cons for continents with A) or 'Asia?'. For the record, it asked the 'Asia' question at Q5.

Take a look at the questions, in the order that was put to me, and (my) answers and decide for yourself if you'd have guessed it. It asked some seemingly random questions, and then suddenly comes up with the answer out of nowhere. Awesome stuff.

01. Is it a good place for fishing? Sometimes.
02. Is it in the tropics? Yes.
03. Does it have a large population? Probably.
04. Was it built after the year 2000? No.
05. Is it located in Asia? Yes.
06. Is it located in Scotland? No.
07. Is it known for volcanic activity? No.
08. Is it controversial? No.
--. Does it have a high crime rate? Unknown.
09. Is it a capital city? No.
10. Does it have a farming community? Yes.
11. Is it a honeymoon destination? Sometimes.
12. Is it known for authentic cuisine? Yes.
13. Is it popular with teenagers? No.
14. Was it built before 1975? Yes.
15. Is it associated with war? Yes.
16. Is it an island? No.
17. Does it sell something? No.
18. Is it part of a democracy? Yes.
19. I guessed that it was Malaysia? Wrong.
20. I guessed that it was Turkey? Wrong.
21. Does it have wild animals? Yes.
22. Is it on the Pacific coast? No.
23. Does it have multiple official languages? No.
24. Is it a country? No.

And then bam! The answer's in the comments below - see if you can guess it (and get your head checked if you can). I definitely would have come nowhere close with this much information. I'd have guessed Mysore in 20questions on my own, but with mostly geographical targeting and some last-mile thinking.



Mr. D said...

PS: The answer was Mysore.


I have a 20Q device which shyam got from the US. It is brilliant. It can find out just about anything from okra to belly button.. Wonder how they work..good stuff..

Vivek Nenmini said...


Vivek Nenmini said...

ok i got close

Rajat said...

With a bit of basic general knowledge and logic programmed in, the app could have appeared much more impressive and probably reached the answer within 20 Qs too. For e.g., after Asia, it asks whether it is in Scotland! And it asks the country Q after guessing Malaysia and Turkey.

But again, neural nets arrive at answers in seemingly mysterious ways, all dependent on the kind of training they have received. Moreover, according to Wiki, success rate could be higher, but the guy has adapted algo to make it more interesting. This deliberate dumbing down could be one reason why the questions seem so random and unconnected.

Mr. D said...

@Gaurav the 20Q device works on the same logic.

@Rajat. True dat, the Scotland question was a serious WTF.