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Google AI experiment needs your cruddy doodles

Limber up your drawing hand. Google wants to see you fast-draw common objects to help an AI system learn.

Quick, Draw
My first round of Quick, Draw went quite well.
Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Google unleashed a new group of online artificial-intelligence experiments and one in particular stands out as both an addictive game and a fascinating window on machine learning.

Quick, Draw challenges you to create a series of drawings in under 20 seconds apiece. The neural network tries to figure out what you're drawing as you go. It learns from its mistakes and seeks to improve its recognition skills.

I'm no great visual artist, but the AI racked up an impressive 5-out-of-6 score on my first round, correctly identifying grass, a helicopter, a penguin, a remote control and scissors. The one it missed was a depiction of a feather, which I though was decent, but the AI thought it looked more like a mouse, ice cream or tennis racquet.

There's an almost addictive thrill to playing with Quick, Draw. The timer counts down and gets more urgent as the seconds tick by. A voice guesses at your drawings, making it feel like a browser-based game of charades. Sometimes it just gives up, saying "I have no clue what you're drawing. Sorry I couldn't guess it." And then you feel like you've let the poor AI down with your crummy art skills.

In one spectacularly bad round, I drew a kangaroo that looked like a lizard, a sun that looked like an exploded egg, a tornado that looked like a cream horn and a basketball that resembled a cookie. But the neural network doesn't judge. It just makes you want to play again.

Please behold my kangaroo in all its glory:

You had one job, Amanda.

Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET