By Bonnie Burton

Watch out or Victor the Gamebot might start insulting you.

(Credit: Debra Tobin/CMU)

Scrabble can bring out a healthy sense of competition among humans, but what about robots? The robotics department at Carnegie Mellon University created a robot named Victor who can play Scrabble, just not very well. But that doesn’t stop him from blaming his opponents for his double-word-score shortcomings.

Victor has a head with an animated face complete with glasses, blond hair, and even a collegiate soul patch, but his fiberglass body lacks arms. He can move, look at the board, and talk to people. He sits at a table at the lounge in CMU’s Gates computer science building waiting for a human to challenge him to a match. Just don’t expect any friendly banter.

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Lobbing regular insults such as “Your word scored less than a CMU student at a party” and “I have seen better, but not from you,” may not win him any points for good manners, but Victor still intrigues humans enough that they want to challenge him to a Scrabble match just to see what he’ll comment on next.

“He’s a terrible loser,” CMU robotics Professor Reid Simmons explained in a Wall Street Journal video. “One of the things we’ve done in collaboration with the drama department is giving him different moods. When he gets ahead he goes into a happy mood. When he’s losing he gets into an angry mood and he’ll trash-talk people and he’ll be self-deprecating.”

While human players can use any word legally allowed in the official Scrabble dictionary, poor Victor is only equipped to use 8,592 words selected from “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” a book Simmons enjoyed reading as a teenager, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Simmons and his team created Victor in 2009 to test human interactions with robots, making them more likely to be treated as companions instead of other machines like a toaster or dishwasher. While we’ve seen robots pole dance, solve a Rubik’s Cube, and tell jokes at comedy clubs, this is the first time robots have been given permission to throw a fit while losing at Scrabble.

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