EarthRoverBot -- An Interactive Twitter Bot

@EarthRoverBot is a Twitter experiment based on Google Street View pictures. It is simulating a robot that is trying to get from Lubec, ME to San Diego, CA – from the rough northeast corner of the USA to the rough southwest corner. It will move from place to place, 200 meters at a time, and it will only choose locations where Street View imagery is available. Roughly speaking, it's going to stick to the roads of the USA, and it's not going to cheat by clipping through buildings/etc.

In the absence of any interaction with humans, it will try to plot a course to its destination, but it's not very smart, so I don't think it will make it any time soon (maybe never) without a lot of help. You can send it commands to move, turn, look around, etc. Here's some instructions.

For awhile I've been experimenting with ideas for Twitter bots which are a lot more interactive than bots I've created so far. Most of my bots have either been heavily scripted – they choose from a list of stock things to say – or they haven't relied on user input at all.

Over the last few months I've written a couple of experimental (and unpublished) bots that interact with users in different ways, and change depending on the user's input. For example, I wrote a bot which would change its profile picture and theme according to what was tweeted at it. I wrote another bot that listened for tweets talking about how people were feeling – "I feel __" – and it would try and find a picture related to that emotion.

Those bots were all essentially failures – one of the cool things about making Twitter bots is that most of the time you can fail quickly, and move on.

I've also fiddled with writing some games that operate as Twitter bots. These are still in progress, so we'll see how they go.

My idea for this bot is really to see how mass-collaboration could work. I would love to see as many people as possible interacting with the bot, helping it get to San Diego, or exploring things along the way. Enjoy!

Filed under: Twitter