Tweenbots rely on human help


[Kacie Kinzer] put together an interesting social experiment: Could a robot navigate purely by the help of strangers? She constructed an inexpensive Tweenbot robot that would drive in a straight line. A flag was attached to the top with a plea for help and a destination. Surprisingly, on the first run it was able to traverse through Washington Square Park in just 42 minutes with the help of 29 people. You can see a video of the first run below. This is part of [Kacie]‘s thesis work at ITP and she has many other bots planned. While it’s a great demonstration of human kindness, there’s another lesson: If you don’t think your public project looks innocuous enough, draw a smiley face on it.

[via Laughing Squid]


  1. Nicklaus Michael (Cold) says:

    Actually was kinda cute.. after seeing all the women touch it I want to be the robot… lol Very cool social experiment..

  2. The Moogle says:

    I love how the police officer helped it and didnt try to blow it up thinking it was a bomb lol

  3. sean says:

    @moogle i was also surprised nobody called it in as a bomb.

  4. strider_mt2k says:

    This really put a smile on my face.
    What a cool project.

  5. momotarosan says:

    just don’t set dozens of these things free in Boston…the cops there will panick!

  6. Drumm'age says:

    I Was Just Waiting For Some Little Kid To Come Along And “WANT” one :L.

  7. pelrun says:

    This is quite interesting – instead of programming a complex robot to perform a task, this robot is simple and stupid, and the flag on top is essentially programming humans to perform the task instead.

  8. pelrun says:

    It just occurred to me – not only is it programming humans, it’s using an *exploit* to do it. People won’t just help any old object get to it’s destination, but a cute robot crying out for help? It’s a rootkit for people.

  9. BigBubbaX says:

    I’m with pelrun on the programming subject.
    Definitely a good social experiment. Glad it worked out well. Its nice to see not everyone on this planet is a complete jerk. :)

  10. BigD145 says:

    A guy uses his feet and a gal in nice clothes gets down and uses her hands. it Just shows you who really cares.

  11. Squeakyneb says:

    That is a really cool social experiment.

    @pelrun: Dammit, you’re right.

  12. thetwiz says:

    what if this was really a test by an alien race, and the website is just part of the cover up? we’ve either just shown them that we are generally a kind species and deserve our place in the universe, or that we are pushovers and all they need to do is paint smiley faces on their killer robots and the ensuing invasion will be relatively simple.

    think about it.

  13. VGZ says:

    kinda neat that all interaction with them was basically altruistic (even when it wasn’t helpful)

    i’d have expected at least one or two people to catch on and point it into a storm drain just to fuck with it

  14. Bob says:

    I’d like to see the difference between this one and one without a face, or even a malicious looking one

  15. charlie says:

    oooh! he’s soo cute. i would totally give him directions … or a ride … and $20 for lunch. come hang out sometime man. i got volts … and amps … and some pot!

  16. tripointlogic says:

    Its a great project… Personally would have wired it to give a lite ZAAAAPPP to the pesky humans and see if it had the same result.

  17. thedarkharlequin says:

    I so want to give him a little briefcase and hat like he’s off to work, maybe whistling a tune.

  18. cameron20020 says:

    @ charlie
    thats the way!
    why not be nice and accepting!
    that robot seems cool, if i see him ima buy him a beer!

  19. supernova_hq says:

    Nice experiment, but did anyone else notice that it veered left just a bit?

  20. F. says:

    All it takes iz 2 dots & a line to make stuff adorabl.

  21. Fletch says:

    This is how the robot overlords will take over the human race… with happy faces. BEWARE!

  22. Jayne Simplatico says:

    This is a follow up video on the Tweenbot:

  23. Chris Kraft says:

    To me it says a lot about the people in that area. If you let that thing go in my town, well, either someone would steal it or smash it.

  24. What is that song? It’s so cute!

  25. Wwhat says:

    Do this in a city in western europe, especially in parks, and some islamic immigrant’s kid will kick the thing to bits and throw the toxic waste in the pond.
    You might think I’m being negative, well the proof is in the pudding, get somebody to try it and see.

  26. AM says:

    It would be interesting if they made two of these with different colored flags (or possibly different facial expressions) and had them “race” to the same destination.

  27. joe says:

    [video src="" /]

    Stop embedding flash videos you fucking idiots.

  28. dandin1 says:

    i had considered letting a basic robot downtown just to see what would happen to it, but i never did because stupid stupid people would create a bomb scare. but now armed with this smiley face strategy, i think i might just revive the project.

  29. shadowsilver03 says:

    This is awesome, it really is. I wonder how well this would work in my city.

  30. charlie says:

    @ jayne
    i love ferretbunny!!! thats a great clip. ;)

  31. blizzarddemon says:

    this is more a socio-psychological experiment on people’s reaction to inanimate (though kinetic) objects isn’t it? I think the people perceive the bot more to be that of an extension of the creator, and as such, see it as helping him, not the bot.

    Though charming, i would think it would be more interesting if the bot atleast had a voice, or perhaps a method of actually asking people itself which direction to go.

  32. labarp43 says:

    yeah, what’s the music. I freakin love it.

  33. amk says:

    the bot is small, simple and cute. it’s far from intimidating, and people seem to be more than willing to help it out. i’ll bet that as you increase the complexity of the bot, and make it appear more human, people will be less willing to help it out.

    would you help out a smelly bum who staggered around bumping into things and couldn’t figure out how to reach a destination even though it was only a few hundred yards away? probably not.

    this is an excellent social experiment.

  34. will d. says:

    this wouldn’t have worked 7.5 years ago

  35. Steve says:

    I am so tempted to do this at my local shopping center, but idiots would either break it or someone would mark it as a “bomb scare”

  36. F. says:

    The song is “Rabbit Pushing Mower” by Toy

  37. kyle007 says:

    give him a small plate with mini burgers…. Adorable. I thought this whole experiment was Charming!

  38. kyle007 says:

    give him a small plate with mini burgers…. Adorable. I thought this whole experiment was Charming!

  39. strider_mt2k says:


  40. dirk says:

    this video made me smile spontaneously. love it.

  41. mattj says:

    Don’t be so fucking stupid.

  42. james says:

    I think this is a great project. I love to see peoples kindness, its cool to think that it only took him 42 mins with such a simple process.. maby in the future most robots will do things more directly related to humans giving them input. maby without them knowing it….

  43. Arkangel says:


  44. Пожалуй так оно и есть, на самом деле все очень просто :)

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