BY KEVIN HODGSON

You and your students may have heard all about the IBM computer, Watson, playing as a contestant on Jeopardy. You too can match wits with a computerized opponent in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s not quite the same as Jeopardy, but this game from the New York Times pits humans against an artificial intelligence that learns from the style of play of its competitor (that would be you.)

The site notes:

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. 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.

The game is simply played: choose whether the computer should be a novice or expert, and begin play by choosing if your hand is rock, paper, or scissors. What is interesting is that after a few rounds, the site begins to post messages about why the computer either won or did not win, making visible the computer’s decision-making strategies. For students, this might be a valuable tool for understanding some underlying logic of computerized players.

(For the record, I started out beating the computer, but it quickly bounced back, winning four in a row. After 21 games, it had the lead 8-6, with six tied games.)

Rock-Paper-Scissors: You Vs. The Computer