Google Doodle welcomes Chinese New Year with AI game

Google marks the Year of the Pig with the ancient storytelling art of shadow puppetry.

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Steven Musil
2 min read

Google welcomes Year of the Pig with shadow puppetry.


Tuesday is the first day of the new lunar calendar, a holiday also known as the Chinese New Year that's celebrated throughout Asia and around the world.

Referred to as the Spring Festival in China, the holiday is traditionally a time to honor deities and ancestors. Fireworks are exploded to ward off evil monsters and bad luck. The festivities last two weeks and begin with a nighttime parade featuring floats, dragons, dancers and musicians.

Chinese families often gather for the annual reunion dinner. After homes are thoroughly cleaned to sweep away old ill fortune to make room for coming good luck, they're decorated with paper cuttings and Chinese poetry couplets.

This year, the celebration marks the transition from the Year of the Dog to that of the Pig, which symbolizes luck, good fortune and general prosperity in the Asian culture. In honor of the new lunar year, Google created a Doodle that celebrates the ancient storytelling art of shadow puppetry.

Shadow Art in action.


Google is also joining in the celebration with the creation of a browser-based game called Shadow Art.  With the help of your device's camera and the game's artificial intelligence system, players use hand gestures to try to form one of the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. Shadow Art will then play a short clip matching the shadow puppet that's been created.

The goal is to go through the full lunar cycle as fast as possible, but you only have 20 seconds to form each animal. The game is available in 11 languages, including English, Chinese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Malay, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

Shadow Art was built with TensorFlow, the artificial intelligence engine the Web giant uses to add capabilities such as speech- and object-recognition to its products. Its machine-learning algorithms deliver search results, help translate languages and identify objects in photos.

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Doodling our world: Check out Google's previous celebrations of people, events and holidays that impact our lives. 

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