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Robot Resumes

Jul 14, 2017

Pass the time as you impatiently await the sweet release of the robot uprising with this guessing game! We describe robots that have been invented to perform specific tasks. Are they real, or did we just make them up?

Chris Colfer: Fans, Fiction, And Fan Fiction

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Hey, Jonathan.

JONATHAN COULTON: Yeah?

EISENBERG: Today, we're going to play a game about robots, so robot trivia speed round.

COULTON: OK.

EISENBERG: What Pixar character spent centuries cleaning Earth before finding love?

COULTON: That was Wall-E.

EISENBERG: Yes. What do you call a robot that is part human and part machine like Robocop?

COULTON: That is called a cyborg.

EISENBERG: Exactly. What a robot is designed to act in a human-like fashion but is unable to express real emotion?

COULTON: Ryan Seacrest.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from The Bell House in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now, here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Thanks, Jonathan. We have a great show for you. Four brilliant contestants are here to play our nerdy games. They're backstage tweeting out the Applebee's menu and getting a lot of positive feedback. And our guest tonight is Chris Colfer. You know him from the series "Glee," and he's also the author of many young adult books. This guy has millions of fans who ask him to do things all the time.

And you know what? I can relate. I can totally relate. I once had this fan come up to me. She gave me her drink and her phone so I could take a picture of her with Jonathan Coulton. Jokes on her, of course. What she got was a 15-second video of my nostrils.

Our first game is about our future robot overlords, so let's meet our fragile human contestants. First up, Aeriel Brown on buzzer number one.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: You're the deputy photo editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. Welcome.

AERIEL BROWN: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Your opponent is Shadman Asif on buzzer number two.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: You're a part-time banker. Welcome.

SHADMAN ASIF: Great to be here?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I like a question mark at the end of that. OK. Aeriel and Shadman, the first of you who wins two of our games will move on to the final round at the end of the show. In this game, Jonathan and I will tell you stories about robots or artificial intelligence. You have to tell me if they're real or if we made it up.

COULTON: So buzz in to answer, but be careful. If you're wrong, your opponent automatically gets the point. Here we go.

EISENBERG: Look out, food critics. The Thai government financed a machine that detects whether authentic Thai ingredients are used in a dish. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Aeriel.

BROWN: Real.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's real.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: The robot can chemically analyze and identify authentic Thai flavors. It costs $18,000.

COULTON: It's a government-sponsored project.

EISENBERG: That's right, to tell you the main ingredient of pad thai is ketchup.

COULTON: Look out, anesthesiologists. Johnson & Johnson developed Sedasys, a robot that administers anesthesia. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shadman.

ASIF: False.

COULTON: No, that is a real thing.

EISENBERG: I know. Frightening, right?

ASIF: Can we just pretend it's false?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: Not for the purposes of that point in this game, I'm afraid. But the product was actually discontinued due to poor sales.

EISENBERG: Yeah. I'm sure no one liked the idea of just a robot over them going, (imitating robot) count back from 10. You know, just...

COULTON: Right. (Imitating robot) Try to relax.

EISENBERG: Look out, Fox News anchors. Japanese scientists created an ultra-realistic android newscaster who will say whatever you want. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Aeriel.

BROWN: Real.

EISENBERG: Yeah, real. I know. If that didn't freak you out, these robots come in adult and child models.

COULTON: Why do you want a child newscaster? That seems like a weird - I don't trust a child to give me the news. out.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Look out, stunt doubles. Action movies such as "Transformers: The Last Knight" are using animatronic stunt doubles in scenes that would be fatal for humans. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shadman.

ASIF: Real.

COULTON: I'm sorry, that is totally fake.

ASIF: What?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ASIF: Oh, this they don't have?

EISENBERG: I know. Look out, field trip chaperones. Some Palo Alto school districts use robots to corral children on field trips. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Aeriel.

BROWN: I'm just going to go with real. Palo Alto - sounds good.

EISENBERG: I'm sorry, it is fake. Yeah. No, you were thinking - those robots you were thinking of are just dads that are computer programmers.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Look out, shepherds. Researchers in England developed a sheep herding AI that may one day be used in robot sheepdogs. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shadman.

ASIF: Real.

COULTON: That is real. You are correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Look out, shepherds.

COULTON: Technically, it's look out sheepdogs.

EISENBERG: Right. I just like that one shepherd is like, huh (ph), me? But my shepherd stick is also a hot spot.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Look out, cruise ship bartenders. Royal Caribbean has robotic bartenders in what they call a bionic bar. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Aeriel.

BROWN: That sounds real.

EISENBERG: That is real, yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: I've had first-hand experience with these robots on the Royal Caribbean ship.

EISENBERG: And how were they?

COULTON: They didn't make the best cocktails I've ever had.

EISENBERG: OK.

COULTON: Part of that may have been because my friends and I were using the app to just come up with ridiculous 25-step cocktails for them to make. We would have them put ice in and then water and then shake it and then strain it, then put vodka in and shake it and strain it. Dump the whole thing out. And mostly they were joke drinks, so they tasted bad. But it was fun to watch.

EISENBERG: Yeah. See, this is the problem with anything when you involve humans. You're like, oh, yeah, you'll make me a drink?

COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Well, let's screw with it immediately.

COULTON: You don't mind doing a little work 'cause you're a robot? Well, get to work.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Exactly. No tip indeed.

COULTON: That's right. This is your last clue. Look out, music critics. Researchers in Michigan made an algorithm that was smart enough to guess the order the Beatles albums were released based on the band's musical evolution. Real or fake?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shadman.

ASIF: True.

COULTON: That is real. You are correct.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Art Chung, how did our contestants do?

ART CHUNG: It was a close game but congratulations, Aeriel, you're one step closer to our final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOCUS SONG, "HOCUS POCUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.