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Robotics Science

"Tweenbots" Test NYC Pedestrian-Robot Relations 197

MBCook recommends Kacie Kinzer's tweenbots page, which documents some of her experiments with small, anthropomorphized robots that need help. Kinzer is writing a thesis (at the Center for the Recently Possible) centered around investigating whether people in New York City will help a cute little robot to get where it's going. "Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal."
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"Tweenbots" Test NYC Pedestrian-Robot Relations

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  • Good Grief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unlametheweak ( 1102159 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:24PM (#27544939)

    Griefers [] will love this toy.

  • by Briareos ( 21163 ) * on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:25PM (#27544945)

    ...that the bomb squad didn't show up []?

    np: Radiohead - Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) (Airbag / How Am I Driving?)

  • by qwerty shrdlu ( 799408 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:37PM (#27545039)
    Please put me back in the water.
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:44PM (#27545073)

    When tourists see it, they say, "New York City." and take pictures.
    When natives see it, they say, "New York City." and move on.

  • Re:Uhm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rduke15 ( 721841 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .51ekudr.> on Saturday April 11, 2009 @06:56PM (#27545129)

    Well, life in general isn't entirely safe.

  • by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Saturday April 11, 2009 @07:19PM (#27545263) Homepage Journal

    I think some of the helpfulness you run into in NYC is also partially due to people living here long enough to be lost themselves. I know for a fact that this city can be downright confusing and you can lose your sense of direction pretty easily - especially if you're coming up from the Subway.

    Of course, that train of logic usually only applies to Manhattan island. Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx each tend to be their own different story.

    But I think the truth is that most people in the world, not just New Yorkers, are pretty helpful.

    God help you if you decide to drive in the city, though!

  • I think you are a crazy person ;)

  • by story645 ( 1278106 ) <> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @12:34AM (#27546375) Journal

    Men in computer science: robot vision, algorithms to avoid terrain and navigate obstacles, logic, highly advanced everything, etc.

    Women in computer science: Doing the exact same thing.

    Seriously, that's the kind of coding I'm doing/working with for a robotics project that requires all that stuff. (Though a lot of it has already been implemented in libraries like OpenCV and player and reinventing the wheel is kind of stupid, but yeah.)
    This girl didn't need it for her (very cool social experiment) project, so she didn't go near it. Yeah, she worked with robots, but not in a comp sci/AI way. I don't see the flaw; would you tell a web programmer to write a web cam driver 'cause his website can handle streaming video?

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:21AM (#27546891) Homepage

    New Yorkers, in my opinion, tend to be some of the most gracious and sympathetic city-dwellers I know of. Of course, traditions and dispositions tend to vary tremendously from borough to borough. I've been living in the south for the past few years, and have found "Southern Hospitality" to be largely a myth, apart from the initial friendly facade that people tend to put on -- at the very least, the northeast doesn't deserve the rap it gets from the rest of the country.

    I agree, agree, agree!

    It's not just the South, though; it's also the Midwest. It seems that the South and the Midwest have a very ill-deserved reputation as being hospitable places. They aren't.

    I grew up in the Northeast (NY, PA) and truly, the level of "friendliness" compared to central VA, Iowa, Dakotas, and so on... it's off the charts.

    Like you said, the initial friendliness is there, but just don't stay there if you're not originally from there. You will be an Outsider (even in a more urban area), because you did not grow up there, and you've got an ever-so-slightly-different cultural and social background. You will not fit in, and instead of being open and accepting, you are shunned and looked down on - behind your back.

    In the NE, people will (more often than not) let you know if they have a problem with you or your behavior. Rude? Maybe. But it beats the hell out of said person sharing their negative opinion about you with their neighbors, friends, etc. and it finally getting back to you months later. (Try this one on: finding out from a coworker, in a town of 200k who lives on the opposite side of the city from you, that your next-door neighbor is pissed at you.)

    The one exception I've found is that night people in the Midwest are more friendly than pretty much everyone. That is, people who are bored with their jobs, at night: gas station attendants and the like. They'll sit for a chat, if they have the time, and are very disarmed. Though, I suspect this largely has to do with crime rates.

    If you're not in a bigger town, good luck

    It's kind of ironic that I will, on occasion, run into someone and chat with them for hours about anything and everything, having a grand old time. It's only at the end of the conversation that I inquire about where they're from. Almost invariably, they were in the military (moved around a lot), and/or grew up in NY, MA, PA, or another of the larger NE states. (And no, the accent isn't usually a tell: it makes a lot of sense to lose a NE accent out here, quickly, as it's yet another thing that makes you stand out in a bad way.)

    In small towns, it's even more pronounced - to the point of open hostility. For instance, if you're driving through a small town and stop for gas, you will sometimes get an overtly hostile attitude. Not always the case, but more often than not, it's very much a "wtf are you doing here, interfering with me and my boys sitting around doing nothing?"

    The one place I've visited where "friendly Midwesterners" might apply as I've noticed it applying in NY is is Texas (San Antonio). It's just too bad NY politicians have made it so difficult to make a living in NY of late.

  • Re:Cute robot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zorg50 ( 581726 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:37AM (#27546951)
    I wouldn't exactly call it rigorous. His sample size was so low that it really wasn't statistically significant. While he did make a point with it, mostly by planting the idea of small-world networks in the minds of other scientists, the experiment was not as big a deal as it was made out to be.
  • Re:Uhm.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @12:12PM (#27549087) Homepage

    A safe life is a boring life.

    I don't sky dive or bungy jump, but I have noticed a trend to "make the world safe" that is sucking all the fun out of it. Kid's play grounds have nothing even remotely exicting in them any more. My kids were the last generation to get to slide down 20 meter slides, 4 meter fireman's poles, swings with wooden seats, any play ground exipment over 2 meters high.

    The Apollo 1 deaths did not stop the Apollo mission. Space exploration is dangerous, deaths were expected. Now, the USA halts the whole space program for years when there is an accident. Yes, the cause of accidents that are preventable should be discovered, and fixed if possible, but I think society should allow a little more leeway for people to decide to take risks to do both the very important, and the simply fun.

    Banning this robot because it might go out on a street would mean banning virtuully all childrens toys and sporting equipment as they often end up in streets. Lets ban biking while we are at it - cyclists go out on streets ON purpose!

Forty two.