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I faced off against a Scrabble-playing robot and lost miserably

I faced off against a Scrabble-playing robot and lost miserably


ITRI’s Scrabble-playing robot uses AI to disrespect its opponent, me

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I thought hanging out with a Scrabble-playing robot would be a nice, chill time. I even imagined they would be useful at nursing homes, as therapy companions to elderly residents. I was extremely wrong.

Scrabble bot’s official name is actually the Intelligent Vision System for Companion Robots, made by Taiwanese research company ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute). It uses a combination of AI, 3D vision, and hand-eye coordination to pour its opponent a cup of coffee, and then mercilessly crush them at Scrabble.

The AI determines which combination of letter tiles can create the highest-scoring word, and tallies up the opponents score accurately as well. But it’s not really all that fun playing against a robot that’s programmed to maximize its wins, and also has the power of an entire dictionary by its side. It doesn’t adjust its playing level to match its opponent either; its expressionless face stands silent, judging, as it shows no mercy.

Image: ITRI

The robot follows the official Scrabble dictionary, so it wouldn’t recognize my excellently played “zen” as a word. (The 10-point “Z” was on the triple letter score!) But alas, “zen” is disqualified because it’s a proper noun, as a specific branch of Buddhism. The robot is strategy centered on going straight for the most obscure words, such as “aquae,” and trying to hit multiple words in one turn. Unsurprisingly, our match ended with my devastating loss.

Scrabble breaks up most friendships anyway, so seeing as my opponent was a robot with unlimited access to a dictionary, I probably won’t be playing with it again. It’s definitely not because I’m a sore loser.