How would you interact with an A.I.? That's the question at the heart of Season 1 of HBO's Westworld. The series is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin in a theme park populated by lifelike robots. To introduce fans to the unique, complex world, HBO and Google partnered to create the perfect combination of technology and story: a chatbot. Meant to be a Guest Services Host from Westworld, concierge bot Aeden was designed to tease, mirror and allow users to participate in the action of the series.
Before the series began, users could chat with Aeden to discuss their upcoming trip to Westworld. HBO targeted users who would be able to afford a visit to Westworld—the 1%—with rich media ad units inviting users to DiscoverWestworld.com, the hub of the Westworld campaign. Once they landed on the site, users were invited to take a "personality assessment" full of unsettling questions and ethical dilemmas. Aeden delivered the results directly to users' emails, calling them by name and suggesting activities based on their answers.
Aeden invited users to have a full conversation—and the scope of his knowledge did not disappoint. HBO worked in lock-step with the series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy to script Aeden with over 250 responses to over 1,100 questions from users. Beyond answering basic FAQs, Aeden was (and is) full of foreshadowing, intel on key characters and easter eggs. In line with the show's narrative, Aeden "glitches" when asked about his own sentience, just one of many winks he offers curious users.
Aeden grew smarter as the series went on, evolving week over week. The chatbot gave HBO a new way to communicate with audiences. The team monitored fan sentiment, theories and inquiries, programing Aeden with provocative answers to address the most burning questions. A nimble, user-friendly conversation management system to power Aeden, built by +rehabstudio, allowed HBO to build a rich, interactive chatbot experience with on-the-fly updates, so that Aeden could react to any evolving conversation. Fans mined for hidden topics of conversation which included Aeden's thoughts on Game of Thrones, the presidential election, and Westworld's own executive producers. Reddit users obsessed over Aeden's responses, and even attempted to reverse-engineer his programming in search of insider info. Insider, Entertainment Weekly, Business Insider and many more reported on his hidden bounty.
A huge finale stunt allowed Aeden to speak to the shocking episode and included Season 2 easter eggs. And after the series, Google and HBO integrated Aeden into Google Home, Google's voice-activated assistant, taking the interactive experience to the next level.
To date, over 1 million fans have visited Aeden. In the three days following the finale stunt alone, Aeden saw nearly 250,000 users and over 404,000 chat sessions, with the average conversation lasting about 4 minutes. The finale stunt was reported on by Mashable, i09, mic, iDigitalTimes, Business Insider and Entertainment Weekly. Not only did Aeden expand the story beyond the screen, he made fans part of the story. Fans clearly responded: Westworld is the most successful Season 1 show in HBO history.
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