Sympathy for the Device

Robin Pohl
December 4th 2011

Tweenbots are small robots that depend on the kindness of strangers. They are only able to move straight forward and do this constantly. Once they get stuck in a hole or at a curb, surrounding people have to move, turn or tilt them to have them reach their destination. Every Tweenbot arrived sooner or later at the address on its label. This implies that people were eager to help this little fellah with its big smiling face. But why are people doing this? Be it due to the instincts to help and protect inferior beings, politeness or empathy – these are all behavioral patterns seen in human relationships rather than interactions with objects.

On the contrary, users freak out if their high-end laptop is not working instantaneously, but have understanding for this dull cardboard robot. Passers-by turn away if another human needs help, but advising this robot “you can’t go this way, it’s toward the road” or walk it with their umbrella to protect it from rain. This experimental device unveils deeply rooted behavioral patterns, which are normally overruled by culture. It is amazing to see how this little piece of technology breaks through that wall and naturalizes our culture for the blink of an eye – welcome to next nature, Neanderthals.

Share your thoughts and join the technology debate!

1 comment

Stefan Fincken
Posted 05/12/2011 – 04:00

Some interesting insights. Great blogpost!

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