In the computer science lounge at Carnegie Mellon University, sits Victor, a scrabble playing robot. Unlike other robots who are designed to be the masters of the game, Victor is a below average player and just like humans, the bot is excited when it wins and sulk on losing. But be careful, the bot can be really nastier at times and can talk a lot of trash.
The idea of the scrabble playing bot was first conceptualized in the year 2009 and was designed by Reid Simmons, a robotics professor and his students. He wanted to develop a robot that interacts with humans in a more amicable way and not as just direction following machines. The bot was trained to play scrabble, which is a well-known game for people and to communicate with humans, more naturally. Since then, Victor is playing the game with an average score and more human like emotions.
Victor is an armless bot, with a box shaped screen acting as Victor’s head, placed on top of a body made of fiberglass. The head has an animated face with rectangular glasses and blonde hair and the drama department has enabled the bot to display different moods by his facial expressions and cunning remarks. Victor is capable to move around his box shaped head to look at the board and his opponent. In total, Victor is intentionally designed to be a below average performer in the game, not adequate enough to work out a plan for the moves ahead.
The change in Victor’s mood is directly related to the progress of the robot’s scrabble game. If the robot is winning, he displays emotions related to happiness, victory and become boastful, while on losing his sportsmanship spirit and humor is completely lost.
The developers of the robot intentionally programmed Victor to be a poor player. During the scrabble game, humans have options of 178,691 words to choose from, while Victor has just 8,592 words available from the book Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Victor now will be trained to reply to trash talk’s of his opponent. Experimenting with the robot, Simmons in the future hopes to create a robot that can be used for helping aged or disable person in a more interactive way. But be cautious if you plan to play a game of scrabble against Victor, on losing he may throw a fist on you.