Cardboard, paper, ink, batteries, motor, and wheels
36 x 8 1/2 x 14" (91.4 x 21.6 x 35.6 cm)
Tweenbots are small, constantly moving robots that depend on the kindness of strangers to get where they are going. Interaction designer Kacie Kinzer sent Sam, the best traveled of the Tweenbots, on many missions in New York City’s Washington Square Park, armed only with a flag that asked passersby to point him toward a particular destination. She fully expected that Sam—made of a battery-operated motor and cardboard—would be crushed, lost, or thrown away, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on how helpful you believe New Yorkers to be) he always arrived safely at his destination. “Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole,” Kinzer observed, “some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal.” Her secret surveillance (via a video camera hidden in her purse) showed that people would interact directly with the robot and were also willing to engage other strangers in a discussion of its predicament. If the Tweenbot’s destination seemed too dangerous, people sometimes ignored the instructions on the flag: “One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, ‘You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.’” The Tweenbots demonstrate that a clever situation staged by a designer can set a dialogue in motion between people and objects.