A year ago, we were telling you about the Canadian robot that successfully hitchhiked Canada from east to west all by itself – a spectacular achievement which prompted its inventors to attempt the same thing in Europe and the US. However, hitchBot was vandalized beyond repair and abandoned in Philadelphia.
Canada’s most famous (and from what I can find, only) beer-cooler turned hitchhiking robot completed a spectacular 3,600 mile trip in Canada, just through hitchhiking; hitchBOT is a chatty, social media-savvy robot, about the size of a six-year-old child which relies on human kindness to get from one point to another. It has no way to move by itself.
After Canada, the droid made its way through Germany, had a small vacation in the Netherlands and then moved on to the US… where things didn’t go so smoothly. After only 300 miles, hitchBot reached Philadelphia, and met a most unfortunate fate. The robot’s creators were sent a photo of their vandalized robot collapsed among trash and dead leaves on the Philadelphia pavement; its arms were ripped from its body and its head is nowhere to be seen.
Creators announced on their Web site that they’d like to have more information about what happened to the bot, but they have no interest in starting an investigation and pressing charges. The project was a social experiment from the start. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University and David Smith of McMaster University created hitchBOT and kept its adventures going, constantly posting updates from the robot. With the immense support they’ve received over Twitter and other social media, creators will likely re-build the robot.
Zeller said many people have reached out with offers to rebuild hitchBOT, and her team will make a decision on whether or not they will bring the robot back to life in coming days.
“We were taken quite by surprise because it’s been going so well so far,” she said. “We don’t really know what to do, so we have to sit down with the whole team and really see where we are and what can be done.”
But with all the talks about humans trusting robots and artificial intelligence, maybe it’s time we ask ourselves another question: can robots trust humans? Mostly, they can – just maybe not Philadelphians.