So here is a very cool idea. Lets make a silly robot that can only move in one direction – forward, lets sheathe it card board with a silly and friendly face, lets put a flag on on the robot’s antenna with the destination that we want the robot to reach, and here is the kicker – we realse said robot into a park in New York and see what happens … does the robot get kicked/beated/mugged/grafiti-fied? does it complete its journey depending only on the help of strangers? 

This was done by a NYU student Kacie Kinzer and the results might be somewhat surprising. From her blog at Tweenbots

Given their extreme vulnerability, the vastness of city space, the dangers posed by traffic, suspicion of terrorism, and the possibility that no one would be interested in helping a lost little robot, I initially conceived the Tweenbots as disposable creatures which were more likely to struggle and die in the city than to reach their destination. Because I built them with minimal technology, I had no way of tracking the Tweenbot’s progress, and so I set out on the first test with a video camera hidden in my purse. I placed the Tweenbot down on the sidewalk, and walked far enough away that I would not be observed as the Tweenbot––a smiling 10-inch tall cardboard missionary––bumped along towards his inevitable fate.

The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. 

Wow, color me surprised, people actually helped the little guy get to his destination, even to the point of pointing the little guy on a path out of danger.