Tweenbot: The lost robot

Tweenbot is a project by Kacie Kincer. Tweenbot is made out of cardboard, ten inch tall, always smiling, only moves in one direction, but it needs to go somewhere, it carries a flag that says “help me get to MoMA!”

Only moving in one direction, it got caught in so many obstacles or go into dangerous direction. But every time this happened, there’s always someone who saves tweenbot from falling into destruction and eventually ended up at its destination. It is now a permanent collection in MoMA and the project is still on going.

So how did a 10 inch cardboard robot who had no idea what direction is get to where it needed to go? The help from people around it. But why would one help a piece of rolling cardboard? it’s just a rolling cardboard, right? Well, if you read my post about NPR podcast: Hidden Brain, you’d get the idea why. People around tweenbot developed sympathy within the short time they ran into it. How could it gain people’s sympathy so fast? Well, first, from my observation and bias, I think it’s because it’s cute. just look at it, it’s smiling!!

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it looks so happy. adorable. 10/10.

second, it is made out of cardboard, a familiar recyclable material. there is nothing eccentric in the design of the robot. third, it is helpless and very prone to danger. it’s just like when you see a helpless kitten on the street. only this one really can’t do anything other than rolling forward, makes it even vulnerable.

My conclusion is, I think people develop sympathy relatively fast when the subject of sympathy is familiar, harmless vulnerable, and has no potential to disadvantage the sympathizer.

 

 

the uncanny valley: where sympathy is absent

The uncanny valley is definitely something I have to consider while planning this project. My goal is to make the people who interact with my project to feel both comfort and discomfort at the same time to give them a space in their head to question those emotional response that they feel.

While I have been going on and on about what I want to do with my project, I don’t think I’ve ever written here how I am going to approach it.

My idea is to make a robot that measures one’s anxiety/nervousness by receiving biofeedback from the viewer through a pulse sensor, and to interact with said person based on the heart rate that the sensor detected. How am I gonna do it? I  don’t know but I have a couple ideas and I.. might have gone and bought a couple of materials that I could use without making sure this would work or not. However, you will never know until you try it.

So how am I gonna build that robot? I’m no programmer nor robotic engineer, I’m an artist. I work backwards. I create a character, the body, the case for the electronic components that are gonna run behind a cute character. Why a cute character tho?

So My goal is to capture sympathy or emotional attachment from the viewer through things that they’re already familiar and comfortable with. we love cute stuffs. we like things we can relate to, so if we go back to our uncanny valley chart, I want my robot to physically appeal at this point, the apex of familiarity and comfort:

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Then of course there would be discomfort of knowing a non-human half-inanimate object is trying to understand our emotion, emotionally, that would fall under the uncanny valley:

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But if these two qualities are put together in one entity, it could create a new interesting point in the uncanny valley, a higher appealing apex:

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So I started with sketches of my character and the basic of how to input and the output would look like.

IMG_1971IMG_1973IMG_1975I will explain more about this robot in my next CPJ update with a more refined details about the sketches! There’s a lot of thinking and conversation that happened during the brainstorming of this little guy that I realized I didn’t have time to put in the CPJ, so I’ll make sure I’ll fill in the gap later when I get the time to visualize and write things.