Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kacie Kinzer's Witty Tweenbot Experiment

Is well worth an amused look.
In New York, we are very occupied with getting from one place to another. I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it? More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself? To answer these questions, I built robots.

Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter.


The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers


The Tweenbot’s unexpected presence in the city created an unfolding narrative that spoke not simply to the vastness of city space and to the journey of a human-assisted robot, but also to the power of a simple technological object to create a complex network powered by human intelligence and asynchronous interactions. But of more interest to me was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object.

I'd agree with her that the results so far are pretty unexpected, and delightful.
h/t The Ottaawa Citizen, which article makes a further interesting note about the results, with this test being done in post-9/11 New York.

In today's world of terrorism and given a city like New York, where the everyday hustle and bustle can overwhelm a human never mind a 12-inch tall robot, surely these little guys wouldn't make it far. However, she was caught by surprise at the results of her little experiment. People actually stopped to help the bots reach their destination.

Make sure you watch the video in the first link!


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