Despite countless electronic alternatives, board games have remained incredibly popular because you can immediately interact with your opponents sitting at the same table. The same can't be said for a computer player, so after developing software that's able to play complex board games like Risk, André Pereira designed and built a sass-talking robot head that gives a face to the AI opponent.
But the robot does more than just provide another talking head at the table while a computer analyses the board and calculates its next perfect move. Using a Kinect sensor the robot is able to actually socially interact with other players, including making eye contact, reacting favourably and unfavourably to moves, and even making gameplay decisions based on how other players have interacted with it.
For example, people are more inclined to hinder another player's progress if they were previously hindered by that player, and the artificial intelligence powering this robot is able to keep track of unofficial alliances and allegiances too and factor that into how it plays a game. And best of all, since in its current form the robot relies on digital versions of board games so it can make its moves, when you inevitably lose you'll never have to put everything away. [André Pereira]