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Can You Beat the Rock-Paper-Scissors Supercomputer?

| 7 Mar 2011 21:17
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Maybe you think you're good at Rock-Paper-Scissors, but are you good enough to come out on top in a no-holds-barred battle with Skynet?

We all know how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors and those of us with time on our hands may even have some kind of half-baked strategy to keep us at the top of the heap. But is it good enough to beat down a mighty machine intellect? Now you can find out!

NYTimes.com is running a "You vs. The Computer" game of Rock-Paper-Scissors which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: select rock, paper or scissors, then watch as a human and robot hand square off with three shakes and a gesture to determine ultimate victory. Wins, losses and ties are tracked for each session, and you can play as often as you like.

"A truly random game of Rock-Paper-Scissors would result in a statistical tie with each player winning, tying and losing one-third of the time," the site notes. "However, people are not truly random and thus can be studied and analyzed. While this computer won't win all rounds, over time it can exploit a person's tendencies and patterns to gain an advantage over its opponent."

At the novice level, the computer starts with nothing and adjusts it play based on yours, while the veteran level gives it access to data acquired through thousands of games played against other people. There's also an option to "see what the computer is thinking," which displays the process of recall and comparison it uses to determine its next move.

At novice difficulty I was able to edge out the computer in a race to 20 by a few rounds; at veteran, it turned the tables, beating me 20 to 19, with 21 ties. Would the gap grow wider the longer I played? Maybe, but hey, I can't blow my whole day playing rock-paper-scissors. And I am, to be frank about it, a pretty awesome RPS man.

Can you do better? Did you? Take your shot at the machine and then post a screen to show us what you've got!

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