“My name is Brendan,” I say to the robot.
“I will call you Brendan from now on,” it replies.
“What’s my name, robot?”
“I am a robot.”
Bot Colony is a game in which you give voice commands to a robot via your microphone. It’s a bit broken.
At least, it was when I last tried to speak to a machine who lived in a very expensive-looking house, in our Bot Colony early access review. It struggled with my Northern Irish accent, replacing the word “name” with “knee and”. At one point I gave out a deep sigh, only for the game to translate the sound of deep exasperation into the phrase: “hurt her.” A worrying interpretation of human tiredness.
It’s an ambitious project, and players are put through a rigorous and lengthy testing stage to acclimatise the software to their voice. You read out long passages of backstory in an effort to get the machine to understand the way you speak. It never quite worked for me.
In a world where Siri is frighteningly aware of every twist and turn of the English language, Bot Colony feels like an ambitious rival robot who never quite reached stardom. We sometimes fear a sci-fi robot uprising, with algorithms and artificial intelligences running the world. But at least now I know my homeland will be a safe haven, as unintelligible and impenetrable to our future robot overlords as it has always been to American tourists.