- Westworld 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. A concierge bot named Aeden expanded the series’ narrative by bringing a Westworld host to fans’ fingertips.
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 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 Aeden offers curious users.
- Aeden made his first appearance as a character in HBO’s virtual reality experience, which debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt. He resumed his role as a Westworld Guest Services Host when he made his debut online; HBO targeted users who would be able to afford a visit to Westworld—the 1%—with rich media ad units inviting users to Discover Westworld. Upon click-through, users were invited to take a personality assessment. Aeden delivered the results directly to users’ emails, calling them by name and suggesting activities based on their assessment results.
- Aeden grew smarter as the series went on, evolving week over week. He helped expand the world by explaining the park’s elaborate parent company; he clarified plot points and park rules. He also fanned the flames of online discussion: HBO monitored audience sentiment, theories and inquiries, programing Aeden with provocative answers and writing 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 repsonses, and even attempted to reverse-engineer his programming in search of insider info. Insider, Entertainment Weekly, Business Insider, Hello Giggles and many more reported on his hidden bounty.
- On finale weekend, HBO took Aeden to the next level. Immediately after the episode aired, a message rolled on-air asking: “What just happened? Ask a host now. DiscoverWestworld.com.” When fans arrived, they found the site was shut down with only Aeden waiting. This new “woke” Aeden, like the hosts of the series, revelled in his newfound sentience. Aeden tersely addressed the episode’s action, teased Season 2 and peppered in new Easter eggs. In the three days following the stunt, 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, the insider, mic, iDigitalTimes, Business Insider and Entertainment Weekly.
- Finally, Aeden transcended a screen. Google and HBO integrated Aeden into Google Home, Google’s voice-activated assistant. Aeden was boosted by ambient sound and responded to questions, taking the interactive experience to the next level. To date, over 1 million fans have visited Aeden; he helped to make Westworld the most successful Season 1 show in HBO history.