Tweenbots are small, constantly moving robots that depend on the kindness of strangers to get where they are going. Kinzer sent Tweenbot Sam on missions in New York City’s Washington Square Park armed only with a flag asking passersby to point him toward a particular destination. She expected that Sam would be crushed, lost, or thrown away, but “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 surveillance (via a video camera hidden in her purse) showed people interacting directly with the robot and even engaging strangers in a discussion of its predicament. If the Tweenbot’s destination seemed too dangerous, people sometimes ignored the instructions on the flag and faced the robot in a different direction.
Gallery label from Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects, July 24–November 7, 2011 .