Tweenbot: The Adorable Robot Who Needs Your Help

My friend Max sent me this great video about a little robot named Tweenbot, who has a little flag attached to his head telling people he needs their help because he can only move in straight lines. It’s creator, Kacie Kinzer, wanted to see if it could get from the northeast corner of Washington Square Park to the southwest corner, completely dependent on people to steer it in the right direction.

The experiment ended up being a success, as it only took 42 minutes and 29 people to help it out. And while I think it’s a really cute experiment, it kind of made me think of the even bigger picture.

Why is that these people are willing to help a cardboard robot find it’s way, but not a homeless person living in a cardboard box? Obviously there’s much less commitment to a small cardboard robot that’s scooting by in a public park, but it’s still kind of odd to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to figure out ways in which I can help people less fortunate lately. It’s kind of what President Obama has been talking about with his commitment to public service, and giving back to our fellow people. I’ll be posting more about my ideas soon, but if you’re an artist or designer or creative type in general, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


9 Comments Tweenbot: The Adorable Robot Who Needs Your Help

  1. elisa April 13, 2009 at 6:11 AM

    interesting project!

  2. Andy April 13, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    Cute and provocative. I think there is definitely something to the idea that people are detached from the robot, but I think it might have something to do with people’s eyes and how they reflect you back.

  3. ian April 13, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    awesome experiment and video. people would help a robot before another person because we have not been hurt or lied to by nearly as many robots as we have other people. But just as one may be reluctant to give the homeless guy a dollar for fear he will simply feed an addiction, perhaps the robot had a bomb or something sinister on board and used the crowd to get to its target.

  4. Tony April 13, 2009 at 4:49 PM

    there is something seemingly less personal about helping this robot along. While its a cute concept, Bobby, you have brought out some very scary points about our culture in general, or at least interesting. This must be within our comfort zone to partake in this totally bizarre situation with a robot. Wish i new more about psychology, but i see your thoughts closely tied to “bystander apathy”, and the overall impersonal aspects of this scenario

  5. pretty like deer April 14, 2009 at 8:17 AM

    the experiment is adorable. i heart robots but your remarks reminded me of this beauty of a short film
    (i can’t remember if i originally saw it here or where it was.) we are at an exciting time right now when people can really make a difference. folks are simplifying their lives out of necessity and this has the potential to open our eyes to different acts of kindness—a different way of life— that go a lot deeper than just giving cash. we have the potential of changing our perspectives, stepping out of our comfort zones to make daily differences in not-so-difficult ways. this film reminds me of all the many different ways we can express kindness. embracing these opportunities is exciting! i love you took this slant on the experiment. can’t wait for more ideas! (and i’ll work on some myself, of course.) thanks bobby!

  6. Pingback: Lil' Robot | The Dapper Alchemist

  7. Chris April 14, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    As I watched this, before reading your post, I thought pretty much the same. I imagined the people who helped out the robot attached some sort of personality to the robot, thinking “poor little guy needs help.” It was cute and fun, and unfortunately homeless people aren’t generally perceived the same way. I know what prevents me from helping a homeless person is the uncertainty that my money will go to something meaningful and not support an addiction. I feel ashamed that I haven’t taken the time to get to know the people I pass daily, which may influence my decision to give help.

  8. pretty like deer April 16, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    hey bobby, here’s a clip that sums up what you’re talking about. comes with the warning: Audience members will feel overwhelming urge to be happy and do something. Side effects include an increased drive to give more. this should help with motivation …

  9. Mickey Mouse April 17, 2009 at 10:36 PM

    My mom went to LA’s skid row last year and passed out her entire Christmas bonus amongst the homeless living there. She gave many of them hugs and listened to their stories. When her friends and I found out about it, we were very upset that she’d gone alone, but what an amazing thing, eh? I know I’m not as good as she is.

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