The History of Akinator

Growing up, many of us played the game 20 Questions where you had to guess what something or someone was based only on asking yes or no questions. When playing with another person, they could make it almost impossible to guess the correct answer because they picked a subject that was incredibly obscure. With the advances in technology, specifically artificial intelligence, you can play 20 Questions with a bot and it’s probably going to get the answer right every time.

At this point, you may already be familiar with the Akinator app and website. Akinator, a genie-like character, first asks whether you’re going to be thinking up a character, object, or animal. From there, the questions get more specific until Akinator guesses precisely what you were thinking of. The accuracy of the AI is beyond impressive, with a success rate of over 99 percent.

Akinator has been around possibly longer than you thought, with its initial release coming back in 2007. The AI was designed by a tech company called Elokence, a French-based operation with only a handful of employees. In their own words, Elokence “develops and markets intelligent services to man-machine dialogue allowing access to complex information databases through natural language to make them intelligible to users with diverse levels of knowledge.”

From Spongebob Squarepants to God, Akinator seems to be able to know every person to ever exist, both real and fictional. No matter how popular or obscure the subject is, Akinator is likely to guess it right, even all the way down to your personal alter-ego. Many want to know how Akinator works and how it was developed, but Elokence has been rather quiet about the inner workings of Akinator.

On the official website, Elokence says that two friends named Arnaud and Jeff were camelback riding through Egypt when they stumbled upon a genie’s lamp, and thus Akinator followed them to France when they couldn’t stump him. We’ll go ahead and chalk this up as a teensy bit of an embellishment.

The real story is that Elokence, which really was just a couple of people at the time, set out to use the information and communications technology for laboratory research. They did this by using a program they developed called Limule. Elokence found that the same AI could be used for entertainment purposes and Akinator was the public’s first taste of the algorithm. What exactly Limule contains and how it operates, though, is “our little secret” according to Elokence.

Ever since Akinator was first introduced, the public has helped to make the algorithm much stronger by introducing questions for the AI to ask and adding potential answers. Even YouTubers with just a couple hundred subscribers are included in Akinator’s knowledge database, so stumping him has become more difficult by the day.

Akinator has become one of the most popular apps around the world, thanks in large part to its ability to be able to communicate in more than a dozen languages. This includes English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and many more. Between word of mouth and great reviews from critics and users alike, Akinator exploded in popularity after being around for a few years and has become a staple of the internet ever since.

Akinator has become so popular over the years that it can even be enabled on Amazon Alexa devices. So when you have friends and family over and you’re looking for a quick and fun game, you can all take turns trying to stump some of the smartest AI in the world. If you’re able to be one of the lucky ones to stump Akinator, he’ll ask you to add what you were thinking of to the database to make him even more capable of getting the right answers in the future.

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