'The Circle' App Isn't Totally Artificial Intelligence; Here's How the Technology Works

Contestants on the reality TV series The Circle are isolated in apartments with limited activities. While players have access to the rooftop hot tub and yoga room, they can only communicate using the Circle app. Surprisingly, the technology used on Netflix‘s The Circle isn’t as authentic as some might think. 

Watch ‘The Circle’ Season 2 on Netflix 

In the Circle, players use every social media tactic in the book. From flirting to catfishing, it’s all about befriending other contestants. Players take the competition seriously with $100,000 at stake.

For many, The Circle is reminiscent of reality TV shows like Catfish and Big Brother with a sprinkling of elements from Black Mirror. Throughout the competition, each player creates a profile and carefully selects the details they want to share with other players. Some contestants catfish those in the Circle and pretend to be someone they’re not.

Others, like season 2 competitor Bryant Wood, stay authentic to who they are. Regardless of which path they choose, different players are awarded the title of Influencer as they try to avoid getting Blocked. 

‘The Circle’ cast communicate through the Circle app 

The Netflix competition series limits the contestants’ communication to the Circle app — a custom-designed technology. “The app is a proper piece of chat technology, a bit like WhatsApp, with bells and whistles and lots of extra bits,” The Circle creator Tim Harcourt explained to Vulture. 

In the series, players are seen using the app through voice command, similar to the way Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa works. But in reality, the technology isn’t that advanced. 

Is ‘The Circle’ app real?

While the technology used in The Circle is real, the way it works is not. The app isn’t as technologically advanced in voice recognition as the show would have you believe. 

“When we first set out, we tried to use it all by voice recognition,” Harcourt explained. “If we had done voice recognition to the level that the Circle does it, I’d probably have a job working for Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates by now.” 

Instead, when players talk to the Circle, a producer is behind the scenes transcribing what they say. That instantly push information to the player’s screens for them and viewers to see. “So there is some humanity in the app, and that’s a couple of producers whose job it is to take dictation from the players,” Harcourt added. 

Producers relay all of the communication in ‘The Circle’ game 

Behind the scenes of The Circle, there’s an “absolutely huge control room.” Harcourt says production ran wires from the iconic Circle apartment building into a “disused college university campus opposite [the building].” 

“In there, we had a huge control room, which at any time would have between 20 and 30 producers and camera ops working, recording, logging everything that was going on, and also studying the game and sending all the messages from the Circle,” he added. “[Working on The Circle is] sort of a bit like being a general in an army, I suppose.” 

Even though producers are pushing The Circle competitor’s messages through the app, that doesn’t mean they’re coming up with the content. The messages sent by those in the Circle are as authentic as they come. 

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