Smart assistants. How smart are they, really? Many people report that three times out of four, they don’t get the answers they were looking for from Alexa, Siri, and a number of other programs designed to make our lives easier. Either the task needs to be repeated endlessly before it’s successful, or the task is just performed downright wrong.
Either way, it’s become clear that smart assistants are not quite as smart as they’re marketed to be.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with their flaws.
That’s why the NYU Game Center’s promising director Frank Lantz decided to turn the universal trials and tribulations with smart assistants into a game called Hey Robot! Its players compete to get their smart assistants to perform a task correctly before their opponents’ does. The game comes with a selection of words, tested and found to be extra problematic. One element of the game makes them get the smart assistant to say a word without being prompted by the word itself. People have compared it to another popular game, Taboo.
“The game works because the devices don’t work that great,” said Frank Lantz, one of the game’s creators. “It’s very funny. You think, ‘Oh this is going to be easy. How hard can this be?’ Of course, it turns out that there’s nothing easy about it. But that’s just the beauty of the game: instead of having the not-so-smart assistant errors messing up the day, players can let some stress off by enjoying their shortcomings with other friends in a fun, relaxed setting.
Lantz dreamt up the idea for Hey Robot with his wife Hilary one night – right in the middle of dinner. They started playing around with Alexa, and after enough laughable mistakes they began tallying how many more she would make, calling the count “Alexa Tennis.” It wasn’t long before they dreamt up system for digging out the best of the worst Alexa moments.
“Instantly, we were hooked,” Lantz says. “We stayed up all night trying to get different words.”
With the help of their son and daughter-in-law, the Lantz’s managed to fully develop the game and are publishing the game through their company Everybody House Games. They’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, with a goal of $10,000. With the potential for party entertainment, it’s expected to go far.