So the East Bay Mini Maker Faire was a mixed success. A few people were able to get the phones to work fairly well, and even played a few games, and the wifi worked reasonably well so I was able to administrate and monitor the phones.
However, the phones mostly were mishearing people in very frustrating ways. In the “Guess the Animal” game, it was fairly consistently hearing “yes” as “no”, which means that the first question “Are you thinking of an animal?” just kicked them out. It was also consistently mishearing the initial interaction as “Status”, which was bringing up the internal status message until I disabled it entirely, which was then misheard as “Repeat” for “repeat after me”, until I disabled that as well.
Additionally, some people were having trouble understanding the phones, so I switched the default text-to-speech module to Espeak, which, while robotic, is easier for people to understand.
Most confusingly, when the Animal module did work, the first real question–“Is it a mammal?” seemed to stump a fair number of people. I understood when the 9 and 10 year old kids didn’t know what a mammal was, but I thought most adults would. Maybe I should redo the database with clearer questions, but apparently I’m not a good judge of what would be well known to most people.
As for future directions, I think I’m going to have to start using the dials as an input device for simple choices. My wife also thinks I should have a small display that clarifies what the last thing the phone said, but I think that ruins the aesthetic.