Hitchhiking Robot to Travel Across Canada


HitchBOT, a talking robot the size of a young child, plans to hitchhike and travel across Canada all by itself. It will begin its journey on July 27 at The Institute for Applied Creativity at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, and relying only on the generosity of humans, plans on reaching the Open Space Gallery in Victoria, British Columbia, 3,870 miles (6,228 kilometers) away. HitchBOT was created by David Smith, an assistant professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University.

Smith said that he wanted to flip the traditional philosophical query about whether a human can trust a robot, instead asking, can a robot trust a human? Smith stated that this project is a mixture of technology and art. It also an experiment to how mechanical androids will be treated and interacted in the real world. HitchBOT is a simple looking mechanism, assembled with what Smith describes as parts scooped up from a yard sale, including foam pool noodles, a beer cooler bucket,  garden gloves, rubber boots, a cake saver, copper tubing, and a tripod.

The robot’s hat and torso will be covered in flexible solar panels, and the bot can be recharged via cigarette lighter or house current (if someone decides to take the bot home). Its only movable part is its right arm which is controlled by a motion detection device. The inside of the robot is more complex. It has 3G/GPS connectivity, high-tech circuitry, and vision and speech capabilities, allowing it to chat up whomever gives the android a ride. It also has a Wikipedia knowledge base.

The goal of HitchBOT, as described by itself on its website, is that he is a hitchhiking robot who wants to travel across Canada and meet new friends. HitchBOT is equipped with a camera so he can record peoples’ reactions to their new passenger. HitchBOT will also asks those who pick it up if they have an interesting story they would like to share, the robot will record the stories and post them on his website HitchBOT.me. Smith stated that he will moderate and remove inappropriate content.

Smith stated that if the HitchBOT is left alone on the road overnight, the android will entertain itself by taking photos and tweeting until dawn, or its next ride. It is also equipped to instruct others on safety procedures as the hitchhiking robot travels across Canada. HitchBot provides speech and signed instructions for safe placement on the gravel shoulder. If there is no safe gravel shoulder for the robot to be placed on, HitchBOT will suggest that he should be placed at a gas station or coffee shop. The robot is currently still under construction, but those interested can go on the droid’s website and see its progress.

Smith stated that he is very excited to answer the question: Can robots trust humans? He has not given his hypothesis for what will become of his robotic creation, but he and his team stated they are eager to commence the experiment.

By Andres Loubriel

The Verge

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