Aaron Widmar
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Hitchhiking Robot hitchBOT Makes Friends Across Canada

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Hitchhiking Robot hitchBOT in side view mirror

hitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, is making his way into cars, and hearts, across Canada. Photo: hitchBOT

Summer is the time for road trips: the open road ahead, the unforgettable conversations in the car, the wealth of detours and destinations along your route, the chance to meet new people, the golden sunshine in your… visual processors?

That’s what the hitchBOT, the hichhiking robot, is experiencing this season as he journeys from one end of Canada to the other.

 The Birth of hitchBOT

hitchiking robot hitchBOT at home with it's research team in Port Credit, Ontario.

hitchBOT can’t wait to start his journey across Canada Photo: hitchBOT

hitchBOT began as the brainchild of David Smith (McMaster University) and Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University). Both professors envisioned a combination social, technological, and art experiment that sent a robot across the nation. The idea sparked a flood of collaborative effort from many researchers and technicians across the country.

The result was a fully-interactive robot named hitchBOT. Using articifial intelligence, speech recognition, social media, and similar technology, hitchBOT is able to start conversations with strangers and document his journey online. His body, designed to ease potential hosts by appearing vaguely humanoid, consists of foam water noodle appendages, rubber glove hands, and a bug-zapper-like head with facial displays. Just don’t forget to plug him into a power source now and then!

hitchBOT’s Journey So Far

hitchBOT’s cross-country travels started in Halifax, Nova Scotia and will soon conclude in Victoria, British Columbia– the full 4,000 mile length of Canada. As of this past weekend, hitchBOT is in the closing stretch of British Columbia. Once hitchBOT reaches Victoria, he can be visited at the Open Space Gallery.

As documented on hitchBOT’s Instagram and Twitter feeds, the latter of which has over 31,000 followers, the sociable ‘bot has made friends with people of all walks of life. What started as an experiment to test a range of behavioral and technological topics has become a catalyst for bringing people together. While some commentators around the web consider the concept to be strange and disconcerting, there’s an undeniable charm to it.

Maybe it’s just our memories of long childhood car rides along with a  Tiger 2-XL robot reading stories from his cassette-player abdomen. Or, knowing that Johnny-5 would make a great friend if we ever met. Nevertheless, if these pages from hitchBOT’s ever-growing scrapbook don’t warm your heart, you might be a machine too.

The Questions Won’t Stop in Victoria

hitchBOT’s story is both inspiring and thought-provoking, as its creators intended. Following his story, and seeing the variety of friends he’s made, brings many questions to mind:

  • What would your conversation with a robot be like?
  • Can a robot trust humans?
  • Is sharing the ride with a robot hitchhiker better than a human one?
  • Would hitchBOT get fined for not wearing a seat belt?
  • Will hitchBOT suffer the same road rage we humans do by the end of his travels?

What do you think of hitchBOT and his mission ? Share your comments below!

News Source: www.Hitchbot.me