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Brief Published: 1 Nov 2019

Are Smart Speakers the New Family Playmates?

Hey Robot

Recently launched (and fully funded) on Kickstarter, Hey Robot is a card game that challenges players to make a smart speaker say a specific word. By integrating human and tech interactions, the game demonstrates the overlap between the physical and digital worlds in modern lifestyles.

Launched by New York-based independent game company Everybody House Games in October 2019, Hey Robot positions itself as a classic party game updated for digital lives. Teams choose cards from a deck that give them a specific word, which they must make a smart speaker say by asking it questions. If given the card ‘fish’, the team might ask: “what is salmon?”

While the gameplay resembles already popular games like Codenames or Taboo, including a smart-device ‘player’ is a novel idea that weaves the possibilities and limitations of digital interfaces into daily activities. “The game works because the devices don’t work that great,” co-creator Frank Lantz told The Verge. “You think, ‘Oh this is going to be easy. How hard can this be?’ But … [the game] plays with how janky these things are.” 

Despite the devices’ shortcomings, the arrival of games that leverage human-machine teamwork points to the assimilation of smart speakers (and other interactive tech tools) into family networks.

As we explain in The New Family Network, part of our Macro Trend The Kinship Economy, nuclear families are no longer limited to two parents and two kids. Smart speakers may now act as board game companions, or even surrogate friends.

Given the tech industry’s increasing focus on designing tools that work with humans to catalyse real-world interactions – a topic we delve into in Enhanced Interactions, part of our Human Tech Macro Trend – we expect to see more of these interfaces that stimulate human-machine contact.

For more on hybrid digital-physical games, see Toy Fair New York 2019, Digital Console Lets Kids Design Their Own Board Games and Kids Tech at Mobile World Congress.