HitchBOT gets destroyed

hitchBOThitchBOT was a robot made by a group of Canadian researchers led by David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University for a social experiment project. It became internationally famous for being the first robot to hitchhike across Canada and Europe. The robot was immobile on its own, but people gave it rides.

hitchBOT hitchhiked across Canada from the Institute for Applied Creativity at NSCAD University Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria British Columbia from July 27, 2014 to August 21, 2014.

It made another daring hitchhike attempt around Germany for a few days in February 2015, which it managed to accomplish successfully.

This summer, it was planning to hitchhike across the US from Boston, Massachusetts to San Francisco, California. Unfortunately, the happy talking and tweeting hitchhiking robot met its demise in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when it was vandalized and destroyed beyond repair this month.

hitchBOT destroyed

hitchBOT decapitated and torn to pieces.

The robot was beheaded and torn apart, possibly by muggers who were trying to search the robot for any hardware they can use or sell, or it could also be that it was just simply destroyed by vandals for no apparent reason. However, it appears its head was nowhere to be found.

David Smith and Frauke Zeller wrote on hitchBOT’s website:

HitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad thing happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.

hitchBOT traveled over 10,000 km (6,213 miles) through Canada and spent 10 days traveling through Germany earlier this year. It managed to achieve such feat because of the kindness and helpfulness of human strangers.

hitchbot map

This map shows how far hitchBot made it in his voyage across the US.

After all the post-apocalyptic stories that questioned whether humans could ever trust robots, hitchBOT poses the opposite question: Can robots trust humans?

hitchBOT was suppose to see how people would react and interact with a traveling robot in society. Unfortunately, hitchBOT’s remains seem to point out a negative feedback. Nevertheless, it made it this far. So I guess there is still hope for the better.

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