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Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

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  • Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

    A graduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts has come up with a really neat, and if i may say so exceedingly touching project for a thesis. She has named her creation "tweenbots"... little robots who have a mission of navigating between a start and a goal in a big city.

    However, the robots themselves have essentially no technology... they are just little cardboard boxes with wheels that drive them forward. This, along with a little drawn-on smiley face and a pennant asking for guidance from passers-by is all that encompasses the little devices.

    The experiment monitors the progress of the tweenbots and charts how the kindness of strangers helps them on their way. To the creator' s amazement... thus far not a single robot has been lost or broken. People help them along on their way, slowly but surely.

    Photos and more details are on the project's web page.



    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

  • #2
    Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

    Originally posted by Deviant Ollam View Post
    A graduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts has come up with a really neat, and if i may say so exceedingly touching project for a thesis. She has named her creation "tweenbots"... little robots who have a mission of navigating between a start and a goal in a big city.

    However, the robots themselves have essentially no technology... they are just little cardboard boxes with wheels that drive them forward. This, along with a little drawn-on smiley face and a pennant asking for guidance from passers-by is all that encompasses the little devices.

    The experiment monitors the progress of the tweenbots and charts how the kindness of strangers helps them on their way. To the creator' s amazement... thus far not a single robot has been lost or broken. People help them along on their way, slowly but surely.

    Photos and more details are on the project's web page.



    A new bumper sticker is born!!!!

    Missing your tweenbot, look underneath my tires.

    xor
    Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to making babies, hacking, and youtube videos.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

      Originally posted by Deviant Ollam View Post
      A graduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts has come up with a really neat, and if i may say so exceedingly touching project for a thesis. She has named her creation "tweenbots"... little robots who have a mission of navigating between a start and a goal in a big city.

      However, the robots themselves have essentially no technology... they are just little cardboard boxes with wheels that drive them forward. This, along with a little drawn-on smiley face and a pennant asking for guidance from passers-by is all that encompasses the little devices.

      The experiment monitors the progress of the tweenbots and charts how the kindness of strangers helps them on their way. To the creator' s amazement... thus far not a single robot has been lost or broken. People help them along on their way, slowly but surely.

      Photos and more details are on the project's web page.



      I could just see someone taking one of these things and "kidnapping" it and taking it on a vacation like people in fraternities have done before with garden gnomes and other items. To make matters [worse? || better?] pictures of the little bots near various monuments, and with fake cloth over the cardboard face, and "todays newspaper," showing proof it was "alive" that day could also be amusing.

      A whole story could unfold, showing pictures of the bot, and how Stockholm syndrome sets in, and the bot turns to a life of crime, robbing fellow coke machines, stamp machines, and other vending machines at slug-point.

      And it just wouldn't be fun unless the pictures made their way back to the owner over the weeks of travel, until finally the robot itself returned to the owner, in a FedEx Box, with 2 empty bottles of Tequila and a few dead batteries, and "x" over the places where the dots for eyes once were.

      Yeah. I could see that happening.

      Beyond my imagination, the creator of these tweenybots has an interesting idea, and it is impressive that none of the bots have been lost or damaged.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

        Actually it's a study on how shallow we are in America. If these things were non-cute people would just throw them in the trash.

        xor

        I say we get a couple and use them for target practice at the Defcon shoot.
        Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to making babies, hacking, and youtube videos.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

          Originally posted by xor View Post
          Actually it's a study on how shallow we are in America. If these things were non-cute people would just throw them in the trash.
          That's an untested assumption. I think if the noncute people had instructions, the majority of people would handle it the same way.

          My beer? Why, yes, it IS half full, thanks for asking.

          S

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          • #6
            Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

            Originally posted by hydruh View Post
            That's an untested assumption. I think if the noncute people had instructions, the majority of people would handle it the same way.

            My beer? Why, yes, it IS half full, thanks for asking.

            S
            Methinks Xor might be on to something. In fact, I think he's hit it right on the nose, albeit for the wrong reasons. I don't think it's Americans being shallow, but rather that the things are "cute", and that cuteness goes a long way with humans in general. Small stature and oversize facial features are hardwired into our brains to be identified with babies and children, and are therefore to be nurtured, helped and protected.

            The project's author herself said:
            Originally posted by Kacie Kinzer
            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 be willing to wager a small amount that a form that most people don't like, say a really ugly, insectasid form, wouldn't be helped, and might actually be avoided by people.
            Last edited by Thorn; April 15, 2009, 20:23.
            Thorn
            "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

              Originally posted by Thorn View Post
              The project's author herself said:I'd be willing to wager a small amount that a form that most people don't like, say a really ugly, insectasid form, wouldn't be helped, and might actually be avoided by people.
              Now that wasn't a nice thing to say about xor. :)
              A third party security audit is the IT equivalent of a colonoscopy. It's long, intrusive, very uncomfortable, and when it's done, you'll have seen things you really didn't want to see, and you'll never forget that you've had one.

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              • #8
                Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

                I agree, I think it is about the cuteness, and that that was the author's point in the experiment.
                It would be interesting to see how cute/ugly an object could be and still get this level of help.


                The other thing I think is interesting - the website mentions 29 people in 42 minutes. That's about 90 seconds a person, on average. Factoring in non-human time, like being stuck on going on normally, each person probably only interacted with the robot for a very short time.
                That diverse set of people, who were otherwise unconnected, collaborated without even direct knowledge of their collaboration, to get the robot to the other end of the park. The 5th person to help certainly didn't know the 23rd, 1st, 10th, or maybe even the 7th or 6th or 4th.
                It kinda reminds me of the novel "Daemon", except with cute cardboard robots instead of guns.

                Also, I wonder if the robot would have less help if it didn't move at all.
                It's not stupid, it's advanced.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

                  Originally posted by YenTheFirst View Post
                  I agree, I think it is about the cuteness, and that that was the author's point in the experiment.

                  [snip]

                  Also, I wonder if the robot would have less help if it didn't move at all.
                  Well, here's an example of craziness over something that's cute (and doesn't move on its own):

                  http://www.woot.com/Forums/ViewPost....ReplyCount=996

                  Actually, I own several of these monkeys, and I'll probably bring a few to Defcon, just for the annoyance factor.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

                    Originally posted by shrdlu View Post
                    Well, here's an example of craziness over something that's cute (and doesn't move on its own):

                    http://www.woot.com/Forums/ViewPost....ReplyCount=996

                    Actually, I own several of these monkeys, and I'll probably bring a few to Defcon, just for the annoyance factor.
                    The netstumbler guys tried to do something like that with a disposable camera. Unfortunately some lazy ass Brit couldn't get up the gumption to go to the corner store to start things out....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

                      I have students recreating these in Phoenix as we speak.

                      I wonder what causes this project to succeed, where say Mooninites are considered terrorist activity. it is a fine line.

                      As far as the cute factor, people are easily manipulated based on physical appearance: I have conducted experiments where the EXACT same function and code was run in two different bots. One was plane Jane, the other had blinky lights, flashing things, etc. People interacted with much greater patience with the blinky bots. Another was that the same code was run in two bots, one was designed to look human in form, the other as mechanical, non-human as possible. People automatically attest a greater level of 'intelligence' to the human looking bot, even though the same functionality was present...

                      1057

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                      • #12
                        Re: Tweenbots - a Touching Study of Human Kindness

                        I am one of the students that LosT is referring to.

                        Another student and I actually built two bots, one with a smiley face and the other a sad face. We plan to put them on one side of a mall with a flag that reads, "Help Me I am Hungry! I Need to Get to the Food Court!". We will then time each robot to see if people are more willing to help a sad or a happy bot.

                        I will gladly post our results here after we complete the experiment.

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