Machine learning is a complex topic, and it requires specific expertise to build products using this form of AI. That’s a serious problem for designers, who have no easy way of experimenting with this new technology. But a new interactive tool from Google lets you train a neural network yourself right from your webcam, explaining the AI in simple terms.
The experiment, called Teachable Machine, gives you step-by-step instructions on how to train an algorithm using just the camera on your phone or computer. The first step: Wave your hand in the air while holding down one training button for a few seconds. This teaches the algorithm to associate a video of you waving with a random cat GIF. Then, hold down the second training button while doing nothing–this teaches the algorithm to associate you doing nothing with a second GIF of an adorable corgi. And that’s it. Now, when you wave your hand, the cat GIF will show up, and if you put it down, the corgi GIF will show up.
That’s just one example of how to play with the tool. I trained it to play drum sounds when I waved my hand over my head and guitar sounds while I shook my hand in front of the camera. You can also play around with using gestures to summon up other GIFs or even speech–you can teach it to say hello when you wave your hand, for instance, or say “yes” when you try to fist bump the camera. You can document your antics with a button that will record your screen.
Since these kinds of algorithms usually need to do a lot of number crunching to learn, the speed at which Teachable Machine works is pretty amazing. It’s part of the company’s AI Experiments project, where members of Google Creative Lab dream up ways to make Google tech more accessible. In this case, they’ve certainly succeeded.