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This Google-powered AI can identify your terrible doodles

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And it’s getting better all the time

As part of Google’s slew of artificial intelligence announcements today, the company is releasing a number of AI web experiments powered by its cloud services that anyone can go and play with. One — called Quick, Draw! — gives you a prompt to draw an image of a written word or phrase in under 20 seconds with your mouse cursor in such a way that a neural network can identify it. It’s both a hilarious and fascinating exercise with broader implications for how AI can self-learn over time in key AI research areas like image recognition and optical character recognition.

Quick, Draw! is a great way to familiarize yourself with how neural networks work to identify objects and text in photos, which is one of the most common forms of AI-guided software techniques we see daily on platform’s like Facebook and Google Photos. As you start to craft the doodle, Quick, Draw!’s software automaton will start yelling out words and phrases it thinks you’re trying to illustrate. As you get closer to the finished product, the voice starts to become a good indication of how your drawing could be misinterpreted as something else. If you’re on point, however, the neural network will home in on the object and guess correctly.

It’s fascinating because it shows just how difficult developing and training this type of technology is. When asked to draw a speedboat, I had to think critically about how a machine intelligence would reasonably differentiate between a sailboat and a speedboat. That meant my doodle couldn’t have a sail or be shaped like a half moon. It could, on the other hand, be relatively boxy and generic so long as the AI understood the object was supposed to be located on the surface of the water. In its post-doodle analysis, Quick, Draw! informed me that it thought my drawing could have been of a shark or a sea turtle. Over time, this neural network will learn from its mistakes and improve as more people play with it.

If you’re interested in checking out Quick, Draw! and other Google-powered AI experiments, head on over to the company’s new website. From there, you can choose between a number of new games and exercises created by programmers, artists, and even those without traditional AI and machine learning backgrounds. Google wants its AI Experiments initiative to be a creative play space for anyone to explore, and it’s taking new submissions starting today.