I’ve lost entire afternoon’s to GeoGuessr, hitting the button again and again to teleport to a random place in the world in Google Streetview and then try to work out where I am from the scenery. Now I’ve spent a similarly long afternoon making Google do the guessing. Quick, Draw![ official site] is a sort-of game, sort-of web tool in which you doodle images upon request and a neural network tries to guess what it is you’re drawing. Come, play, abandon productivity.It’s simple enough on the surface. The game tells you to draw a raccoon, for example, and you’ve got twenty seconds to do so in black line. The webpage calls out its guesses, “I see bird. Cat. I see skateboard.” until either it gets it correct or, in the case of at least one of my drawings, it lets out a resigned, “I don’t know what that is.” You draw five images in total and then it takes you to a results page.
On that results page you’re able to see a little more of the complex workings that obviously underpin something like this. The neural network is designed to learn to recognise the images based on what other users have drawn, and so you can click to see that, heck, your drawing of a raccoon wasn’t that far off other people’s efforts. This machine is just throwing shade your way. It also shows you an overlay of why it thought perhaps your beautiful rending of a rodent was a skateboard, along with comparative images of some of its other guesses.
Then you hit the play button again and go round and round.
It’s impressive sometimes how quickly it guesses the correct answer. For example, I got this far through my beautiful rainbow drawing before it got the answer:
Whereas on other occasions it reaches a point of awkward silence, where you’re finished drawing and it’s made all the guesses it can think of and you just start drawing a second one next to the first in the hope that helps but it doesn’t help and oh no. It’s as close as you can get to playing Win, Lose or Draw without Danny Baker sleeping on your couch for weeks afterwards.