Tag Archives: psychology

Little robots restore my faith in humanity


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.

Kacie Kinzer makes little robots, and sets them off on little adventures, crossing the street by themselves, and relying on the kindness of strangers. Interestingly, this works out: strangers help the little robots, and try to protect them from danger. This warms my usually cold, cynical heart.

Via Bruce Schneier (who notes that the little bots might have fared less well in Boston…)


Jedi Bathroom Tricks

I’ve passed through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport a few times in my travels. Unbeknownst to me, I have been experimented on each time…

The flies in the men’s-room urinals of the Amsterdam airport have been enshrined in the academic literature on economics and psychology. The flies — images of flies, actually — were etched in the porcelain near the urinal drains in an experiment in human behavior.
After the flies were added, “spillage” on the men’s-room floor fell by 80 percent. “Men evidently like to aim at targets,” said Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, an irreverent pioneer in the increasingly influential field of behavioral economics.

That’s pretty cool. I never knew this. This is the sort of thinking we need more of in tackling user-facing security problems. The biggest challenges aren’t math- people are the weak point in any system. If we can nudge people into doing the right thing, in any discipline, and amuse them along the way, we’ll have done the world a service.