Google Promises Its Christmas Game Doesn’t Use Kids to Train AI

Key Takeaways:

– Google’s “how many days until Christmas” search on a computer leads to the Santa Tracker hub
– The hub offers activities and educational content for children
– One of the activities is a guessing game called Quick Draw
– Quick Draw involves drawing objects while a robot named “Tensor” tries to guess what is being drawn
– Tensor is a reference to Google’s software library for machine learning and AI called TensorFlow
– The game claims to train Tensor on children’s drawings to improve its image recognition
– Google clarifies that the game is just a Christmas joke and does not actually train AI models
– Quick Draw debuted in 2017 and is not a ploy to collect children’s data for AI purposes
– Google is cautious about bad press and unlikely to openly collect children’s data in this manner
– Quick Draw may help children become more comfortable with AI and the future of technology


Google “how many days until Christmas” on a computer, and you’ll find a little animated present that transports you to the company’s Santa Tracker hub, a winter wonderland full of activities and educational content for children. Among the offerings is a guessing game called Quick Draw, which makes an explicit and unsettling promise to train “Tensor” on kids’ drawings. According to the company, however, it’s just a cheeky Christmas joke and the intent isn’t really to hone its algorithms on children’s data.

Quick Draw gives you an object to draw like candy, a nutcracker, or a sleigh. As you sketch, a little animated robot named “Tensor” tries to guess what you’re drawing. TensorFlow happens to be the name of a software library for machine learning and AI that was developed by the Google Brain team. So it could be easy to assume the cute little robot helping Santa is a front for an AI monster lurking behind the curtain. 

The game opens with an explanation encouraging you to “Help Tensor practice its image recognition!” The description says Tensor is “Santa’s Machine Learning robot.” According to the game, “The more you draw, the smarter Tensor will get,” which will “help Santa be more efficient than ever this holiday season.”

In an email, a Google spokesperson said you shouldn’t take that literally. “We’re sorry for the confusion,” the spokesperson said. “Drawings created by players of the game aren’t used to train AI models. We’ll update the website description to clarify that.” The spokesperson clarified that Quick Draw’s Tensor has no relation to Google’s real AI products that use the same name, which include a series of “AI-first” processors for its Pixel smartphones and TensorFlow, an open-source library for machine learning software.

Google’s says this game doesn’t actually do what it says that it does.
Screenshot: Google

According to Google’s press department, Quick Draw debuted around 2017, long before questions about artificial intelligence reached the current existential fever pitch of the post-ChatGPT world.

There’s good reason to be skeptical of big tech, but it makes sense that Quick Draw isn’t just a ploy to put kids to work in Google’s AI workshop. Google is particularly apprehensive about bad press, even compared to its often cautions big tech rivals. Most of the company’s projects go through a series of legal and PR checks to ensure Google isn’t stepping into the mud; if Quick Draw was really harvesting kids’ data, it’s hard to imagine Google would be so upfront and cheerful about it. There are less risky (and relatively inexpensive) ways for the company to train up its AI army, especially when the general public is hyper-sensitive to kids’ privacy issues.

Whether or not Quick Draw is turning kids into Santa’s AI helpers, it is helping to ease them into a future that many find unsettling, one where the world is filled with robots built by corporations like Google at every turn.

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AI Eclipse TLDR:

Google’s Santa Tracker hub includes a game called Quick Draw, where players are encouraged to help a little robot named “Tensor” practice image recognition by drawing objects. However, some have raised concerns about the game’s intent and whether it is training Google’s algorithms on children’s data. In response, Google has clarified that the drawings created by players are not used to train AI models and that Quick Draw’s Tensor has no relation to Google’s real AI products. The game, which debuted in 2017, is seen as a way to introduce children to the world of AI and machine learning. Despite skepticism, it is unlikely that Google would risk negative press by harvesting kids’ data in such a blatant manner. While the game may not actually be training AI, it does help familiarize children with the concept of robots and AI as part of their future.