This Amazon Echo does not appear to grasp that each one I need is a whiskey. I am seated within the Tribeca workplaces of promoting agency 360i and the haunting voice popping out of its little speaker simply says, “Never heard of it.” The issue is that me and 360i’s inventive director Andrew Hunter each gave the order on the similar time and “Rose,” our information on the Mariposa Saloon on this audio play, could not make it out. Nevermind, then.
As a substitute, we choose to take a stroll by way of Sweetwater, the fictional city the place Westworld takes place, and ultimately wind up at a story lifeless finish once we do not know the situation of somebody that one of many townspeople is searching for. It is over, and shortly we’ll be, theoretically, despatched again to the the Mesa Hub to have our recollections wiped and be shoved again out into the Mariposa to run by way of our loops once more.
That is what it is wish to go to Westworld due to a (pretty) sensible cylindrical speaker.
Hunter tells Alexa to “go away” and explains the overall premise of Westworld: The Maze: You, speaking to your Alexa system, are dropped into Sweetwater, very like a Westworld host. You may hear the trains coming to city, the participant piano within the bar. Individuals discuss to you, and in response you give solutions, make decisions, and study your manner round. The extra you play, the extra you realize, and ultimately you determine easy methods to discover your method to the tip. Just like the artificially clever machines within the HBO present, you are working your manner up on creator Robert Ford’s pyramid of consciousness: Reminiscence, Improvisation, and Self-Curiosity. In case you get to the ultimate stage, you win. It is like a choose-your-own-adventure narrative podcast. However, very like attaining true intelligence, it is not straightforward.
“There no guarantee that you’ll be put on the same path each time, so you can learn something you might need to know 10 times from now,” Hunter says of the sport, accessible at present. “There are 60 different paths you can take to the finish line, essentially 60 paths to consciousness. And I think there are 32 ways to die.”
He is not kidding. On the whiteboard instantly over my shoulder there is a listing that is non-cryptically titled “Potential Death Scenes” (examples: “stampede (cattle),” “fall off cliff,” “coyotes?”). There are some 400 choices within the recreation; the “script” for it’s 11,000 strains lengthy and covers greater than 250 pages. When Menno Kluin, 360i’s chief inventive officer, plops it down on the desk in entrance of me, it hits with a thud heavier than that of your common film script, and way more advanced.
Speaking to the group behind The Maze, although, it is clear that is how individuals advertising TV are going to must do issues going ahead in the event that they wish to sustain. Tanner Stransky, the director of digital content material for HBO, factors out that 20 p.c of Wi-Fi-enabled houses within the US have already got sensible audio system, and that quantity is simply going to go up. Quickly, speaking to your Alexa or Google Dwelling or Apple HomePod about your favourite present will not be any completely different than following the present on Twitter or scrolling by way of its Instagram. “We’re like, ‘Everybody’s gotta get in on this,'” Stransky says.
And shortly sufficient, they most likely will. As voice-enabled units discover their manner into increasingly houses, conventional media retailers are going to have to search out methods to make use of them to carry consideration again to screens. Since Amazon Echo and Google Dwelling already (by chance) reply to sounds from TVs, it solely appears proper that these units study to play good. That does not imply The Maze goes to fireplace up every time Ford begins yapping on Westworld (the precise launch command is “Alexa, open Westworld,” FYI), nevertheless it does imply there is a manner for the present to maintain followers’ consideration as soon as this Sunday’s season finale is over and so they’ve shifted their consideration to different devices. So, similar to Jurassic World digital actuality experiences or the real-world recreation of the “Not Hotdog” app from Silicon Valley, experiences that use voice would be the subsequent wave of tech for use for film and TV promotions.
And on this new world, issues transfer quick. HBO and the group at 360i solely began work on the sport in mid-March and principally needed to conceive of the sport, work on the script with Westworld manufacturing firm Kilter Movies, file the audio (Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard/Arnold and Angela Sarafyan’s Clementine are featured in The Maze), and construct the expertise in only a few months to get it carried out earlier than the finale. “It was a sprint,” Hunter says with amusing. Surprisingly, 360i’s head of innovation tech, Layne Harris, notes that really constructing a recreation for Alexa—carried out utilizing a program known as PullString—is pretty simple. It is the fixed testing and rooting out lifeless ends that takes time.
However now that the sport is finished and accessible on individuals’s Alexa units, HBO—and anybody else watching their strikes—can see how nicely followers reply to voice experiences for TV exhibits. It is at that time that the community will change into really self-aware.
“We’ve always tried to be innovative,” says Stransky. “We have a history of it and we’re looking at everything from VR to AR to chatbots. We’re really thinking there’s a lot more to come here for us.”