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.

[ ?posts_id=1712075&dest=-1]

[via Laughing Squid]

45 thoughts on “Tweenbots Rely On Human Help

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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….

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.