October 11, 2013 8:08 PM | Paul Hack
Step right up folks! it's the amazing, astounding Filmillion, the Movie Augur. Here's the pitch: Just think of a movie--any movie made to date--and answer up to 30 "yes" or "no" questions about it (you can also answer "probably yes", "probably no", or "not sure"), and Filmillion will guess your movie. Filmillion's a lot like 20Q.net and its handheld incarnations, but entirely focused on films. So how well does it work?
When Filmillion guesses correctly, it's pretty cool, but it does come up with some spectacular misfires. It impressed me by guessing Blade Runner in less than 30 questions, but it couldn't figure out The Naked Gun. It seems that the algorithm underlying Filmillion is not perfect, but it's still being improved by the development team. Filmillion is still learning, and you can help. If Filmillion fails to guess your movie, there's a form to let it know what the correct answer was. You can also come up with your own question for it to ask, but you'll need to be ready to answer your new question about a whole bunch of movies.
There's an interesting element to these types of digital games that most normal computer games don't possess: you have to play fair. You can't change your mind about what movie you picked, and you have to answer honestly, to the best of your ability, for the game to have a chance of identifying your pick. But even if you play by the rules, it's possible that an unclear question or an innocent misinterpretation could result in an incorrect answer. I think we enter into a contract with these sort of games to play fair because, really, we want the computer to win. It's more fun when Filmillion guesses correctly.
You can challenge the Filimillion in your browser.