Pattern completion game

I’ve been through a rather long period during which my creativity was virtually absent.

This has already happened to me in the past and one of the tricks for getting out of it is to look at ordinary things with a different point of view (i.e. spending the commute time on the bus looking at house roofs or focusing on the tiny details, scratches of the bus seat, or just looking at scratches on the seemingly smooth surfaces). It works. Always!

Birth of the pattern completion game

This time I tried to peep through a tiny hole on my hat.

I was amazed by how much I could understand about my surroundings by sampling a very tiny (a pinhole) portion of the world. I could immediately recognize buildings, cars, or even more complex objects in a matter of few seconds.

This is where I got the idea of developing a pattern completion game. Simply put (in Edmund T. Rolls’ words), pattern completion is “the ability to recall a whole memory from a partial cue”.

The game

The goal of the game is to guess the hidden image by exploring only a tiny portion of it. Moving the pointer over the image reveals an NxN square of the underlying image.

When the player believes to have recognized the hidden image, she can left-click to reveal the image.

The game then tracks the exploratory path on the image (converted to gray scale for display purpose only, the original imaged used during the game is an RGB image). The game also outputs the time elapsed between the start and the left-click.

Real data

I tested the game on my 5.5 year old kid and I was surprised by how quickly he could recognize some familiar items.

What I found astonishing is that a VERY small portion of the image is enought to correctly recognize the whole image – well, I guess familiarity with the object plays a big role here 🙂

Further development of the game

This game can be further improved (well, the data-collecting part of the game at least).

  1. Randomize the starting point.
  2. Let the software, rather than the user, randomly choose portions of the image to display.
  3. Express the number of samples taken as a percentage of the whole image.
  4. Normalize the background across the images.

Other uses in web usability

This game could be used to test webpages UX:

  1. display the landing page.
  2. After a delay, a gray mask covers the landing page.
  3. Ask the subject to navigate to points of interest of the page, by looking through a small sample of the page.

In this case memory for the location is supported by the presence of local cues (visible though the tiny exploratory window).


Leonardo Restivo

Behavioral Neuroscientist, M.Sc., Ph.D. - Passionate about Behavior, Data Visualization & Psychology. Read my CV+résumé. Follow me on twitter @scipleneuro