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Earth Rover Bot is driving across the U.S. using directions from tweets

What could go wrong?


Mike Fenn


Posted on Oct 31, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 7:21 am CDT

Thanks to the miracle of technology, you can now tour the entire country without ever leaving your computer. And no, we’re not talking about Google Street View.

Massachusetts-based Muffin Labs has opened control of its cross-country rover, Earth Rover Bot, to the general public. The bot’s goal? To travel over 3,000 miles from Maine to San Diego. And it does so from user input via Twitter and some help from Google Maps.

“The bot has some very simple navigation routines, and it will attempt to drive itself to its destination, but it will only travel to places that have Google Street Map data. Every 12 minutes it will pick a move to make, hopefully towards the destination,” wrote Colin from Muffin Labs on the project’s homepage.

moved 10 meters bearing 131° (4yg)

— Earth Rover Bot (@EarthRoverBot) October 30, 2014

moved 150 meters bearing 221° (4vy)

— Earth Rover Bot (@EarthRoverBot) October 29, 2014

The Earth Rover Bot accepts only a few commands through Twitter. They are, as follows, according to the Muffin Labs website:

  • help – Asking for help will send you to this page.
  • status – Send this command to get the bot’s position, bearing, and a picture of what it can see.
  • map – Are you lost? Send this command to get a Google Map URL of the bot’s current location.
  • move x – Move the bot x meters. You can pass a negative value to go backwards
  • turn x /left x /right x – turn x degrees. You can pass a negative value if you want.
  • fov x – change the ‘field of view’ of the bot. Pass a low number for a really tight zoom, or pass a high number for a wide angle shot.

Since its launch, Earth Rover Bot has only made it to the small New Hampshire town of Dover, which is 281 miles from its starting point near Whiting, Maine, and a good 3,100 miles from San Diego. Fans of the rover can follow its progress on Google Maps, via a map that will update its location once every 15 minutes.

It’s a shame that EarthRoverBot is being restricted to the United States. It would be great if it managed to cross paths with Hitchbot, the robot currently hitchhiking across Canada.

Photo via oomlaut/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Oct 31, 2014, 11:47 am CDT