How Does Akinator Work? The Science Behind the Web Genie that Reads Minds

Since humanity has stepped into the era of AI (Artificial Intelligence), we have made tremendous progress in the field. AI has not only found its way into various industries helping us carry out difficult tasks with ease, but it has also kept us entertained. One of the ways in which AI has been entertaining us is Akinator, at the same time as keeping us guessing about this incredible technology.

Although many of you will have heard about it already, for the uninitiated, Akinator is a web genie. It is a sort of online game that went viral a while ago. This web genie correctly guesses the name of a prominent person,  celebrity, fictional characters, animals, as well as objects that you are asked to keep in mind while playing the game. Once you click the play button, Akinator asks you a series of 20 questions and you have to choose a correct answer from the options provided. Once you have answered the questions, the web genie will guess exactly who or what you had in your mind while playing the game.

Incredibly, Akinator guesses the correct answer almost every time you play the game. It is said to have an accuracy rate of 99 percent. Additionally, it can not only guess the names of very famous celebrities, personalities, superheroes and so on, but its accurate decision tree has guessed characters and figures like Kevin McCallister (the lead character in the Home Alone movies), Dora the Explorer, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes lead singer), Chester Bennington (the late lead vocalist of Linkin Park), and many more similar names.

If you wish to play the game on your mobile phone, it is available as an app on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

However, getting back to our original question, let’s look at how Akinator works.

How Does Akinator Work?

Akinator uses an extremely complex algorithm developed by Elokence.com. The algorithm runs the answers to the questions answered by you through a database that has information about almost all important people, fictional characters, objects, and animals in the world.

Your selections run through millions of possibilities, counting down to a selected few as the questions near the 20 mark. Moreover, the questions and their answers are designed in a way to lower the possibilities by half every time a question is answered. For example, selecting if the person is fictional or not substantially reduces the number of probable answers.

Was the Akinator Database Built Exclusively for the Game?

This is a question no one knows the answer to, except the guys at Akinator. The developing company Elokence has decided to keep all information about the AI’s algorithm a secret. However, many believe that Akinator might be using a global public or non-public database as the source of the data, which is processed in real-time to correctly guess the name of the person, animal, or thing.

In our opinion, one of the biggest sources of close-to-legitimate information available to everyone with access to the internet is Wikipedia. Wikipedia has detailed information about almost anything important in this world. Also, the interlinking of places, people, events, dates, characteristics, and various other information on Wikipedia makes it one of the most reliable resources to gather data that could be used to develop such a precise game. The way this online game guesses characters is truly intriguing and the use of sources like Wikipedia seems very natural.

However, there is a problem with Wikipedia. The information available on it is not necessarily accurate as it is maintained by a community. Although the information cannot be trusted all the time and is not necessarily always up to date, it is true most of the time.

Whatever the case may be, the developers of this game have done a tremendous job creating something like this. The working algorithm of Akinator might not be a mystery but it is definitely interesting.

Does Akinator Update its Database?

This entertaining game updates its database, which includes learning through its users. If the Akinator game is unable to guess the name you had in mind within the 20 questions it asks you, it prompts you to provide the name of the person. Although this is very rare, Akinator uses this input to build its database with the answered questions. In the past few years, Akinator must have had thousands of times where it was not able to successfully guess who or what the player had in mind. Many, if not all of these times when people entered the correct name would definitely have helped Akinator. This way, the iconic web genie is not just entertaining you, it is also learning from you.

Final Thoughts

As time passes, we can only hope Akinator will enrich its database and guess more precisely. But the question of how exactly this web genie works still remains unanswered. We have our guesses about the algorithm, but we may never know exactly how it works until the developers decide to tell us, or perhaps some genius cracks it for us. Until then, the best option for us is to sit back and enjoy Akinator whenever we have time for it.