27 January 2009

Challenge the Akinator

The Internet is a wonderful thing. At the touch of a button you can find out just enough about a subject to make you sound like you know what you're talking about, connect with friends you just saw a few minutes ago, express your ill-informed opinion on angry message boards, and watch "hilarious video" after video on Youtube. But even with all of these options, boredom has a way of creeping in and stealing over you just when you least expect it. When this happens, the Internet can also come to the rescue! Give yourself over to its cold, technological touch and meet the Akinator and Songtapper.

The Akinator is a website based on the old game "20 Questions", which is the type of game people played on long car rides before the dawn of the Nintendo DS. Akinator comes to us in the form of a genie, and even sports his own backstory, for those who need to know more about his origins. I'm not entirely sure about the Akinator's real life country of origin (Israel? France?), but a small language barrier and the unfortunate "user-input" feature of the site sometimes leads to some unintentionally hilarious questions. Even for all that, however, the Akinator is usually right, as long as A) you stay away from using actors as your question fodder (Akinator does much better with fictitious characters/historical figures) and B) actually know what you're talking about when you answer his questions. Don't blame the genie when you throw up John Stamos and he guesses David Duchovny because you think Duchovny is primarily a "comedic" actor, in other words. Also, I just told you to stay away from using actors!

The other site is Songtapper. There's no backstory here, and no amusing genie, but the Songtapper is good for at least a few minutes of diversion. You use your keyboard to tap out the beat of a song, and the program will throw out some likely candidates for the title. It's not as accurate as the Akinator and I found it difficult to determine exactly which part of the song I should be tapping (drum beat, guitar, vocals?). Still, if you need something to do in between refreshing your MySpace inbox, this will do the job.