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Trivial Pursuit: Quick Thinkers Can Kill Time, Earn Prizes from Smart Phone

Nov. 21, 2018
Are you super competitive and traveling a lot over the next month? A trivia app called FleetWit allows you to bet that you are the quickest mind out there during your next layover or lull.

My wife won't watch Jeopardy! with me, as I shout out the question before Alex Trebek even finishes reading the answer. I can see how that's annoying, especially when my mouth pops off before my brain's synapses can register the information and I get it completely wrong. The issue is that my better half is no slouch in the brains department, and refuses to answer in the form of a question, so every millisecond counts. I have to beat her at something, after all.

I'm guessing a lot of our readers can relate, as manufacturing is really about competition, speed and knowing you're right. If you're also a trivia junkie, there's an app called FleetWit that allows you to put your money where your brain is and challenge other users in head-to-head contests that reward quick-thinking and typing, and those with vast cerebral depositories of random knowledge. It's the perfect alternative to scrolling through social media feeds as you wait in the airport or lay on the couch digesting a big holiday feast.

You start by purchasing credits (40 for $10) and then picking a topic and challenger. Categories include science and technology, history, pop culture and dozens of others and the quick. You can convert your winnings into cash or gift cards.

"Our motto is 'Everyone is an expert at something,' and we truly believe that," says creator David Metz. "We already have over 170 categories, from astronomy to Seinfeld to 1980s music."

If you choose to play, be warned your competition are no push-overs.

"Demographics-wise, 88% of our players have a Bachelor's degree, 50% have a Master's, and 20% have a Doctorate, and we have an even 50-50 male-female split," Metz says.

Metz says the top player has won around $50,000 since the app launched in August 2017 and average users pull in $160 per month.

When the company reached out to me in April to test the app, they also offered me an opportunity I couldn't pass up: challenging Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy! champion who won 74 games in a row. He also tested his mettle against IBM's Watson supercomputer in 2011, being handily defeated by the artificial intelligence.

I played him three times and this is what happened:

The winner is determined by correct answers and time used, so speed and quality are equally important. As you can see, he kicked my butt the first time in a legitimate category of science, and by the end I nearly got him with the fluff category of comedy movies.

Against mere mortals, I fared better, but didn't walk away with many credits.

Even if you don't always end up winning, Jennings thinks mental exercises like FleetWit hold real value, saying it's "like hitting the gym, except for your neurons."

"I wouldn't be surprised if the benefits are the same as the ones in the studies where doing crosswords or Sudoku or whatever delayed the onset of dementia," he continues.

Another plus is that with this game is that it shows humans still hold the edge over AI in some areas.

"The Watson I faced would be terrible at FleetWit, by the way...it was too slow!" Jennings says. "Watson needed the full five seconds of Alex Trebek reading a clue to process a response. FleetWit moves a lot faster than Jeopardy!"

And how does he feel about his place in AI history?

"It was an honor to be a footnote in the history of the artificial brains that will eventually replace and murder us all," Jennings quips.

If we want to delay that inevitability, we need to sharpen our wits. In manufacturing, humans still maintain a 72% share of tasks assigned,and games like FleetWit are a good way to make sure your brain remains a more efficient tool than what's coming out of Silicon Valley. At worst, you can show you are better than the rest of us primates and without annoying your significant other.

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