Spend your weekend teaching a computer to recognize art

The internet was originally used to help academics exchange information. It has been abused ever since. To honor that lasting achievement, here's how you can misuse a site that was designed to help people identify written characters, to draw cat pictures instead.

Shapecatcher is a site meant to help people identify unicode characters such as letters in various alphabets, symbols, and numbers. You draw in the character you can't recognize and it rustles up various characters that it thinks fits the character you drew.

Spend your weekend teaching a computer to recognize art

But it doesn't just recognize characters. It can see basic shapes, as well. Draw in faces, and simple pictures, and, by clicking "recognize," you can see a list of images that the computer thinks you've drawn. My kitty face, pictured here, was recognized as a cat face (hurrah!), but also as a "man in turban," and, disturbingly, an "anguished face."

For added fun, try playing a game of pictoral telephone. Here's how it works: you draw a cat's face, pick one of the things it recognizes the cat as, and draw that next. Keep going until you've somehow morphed — as I did — into "umbrella." I'm not showing you that picture.

Top Image: Peter Forster

[Via Shapecatcher.]