Meet hitchBOT, a robot from Port Credit, Ontario.
HitchBOT Help explains Everything you always wanted to know about hitchBOT, but were afraid to ask.
HitchBot successfully hitchhiked from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia, a distance of about 4,000 miles. HitchBOT is now on a return trip.
CNN reports …
The gender-neutral robot was conceived by university researchers David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller, who view its quest as part performance art, part social experiment.
“People seem to be rather intrigued with hitchBOT, and take very good care (of it),” said Smith, a communications and multimedia professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and Zeller, a communications professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, in a statement e-mailed to CNN.
“We have even seen hitchBOT lying in a camping bed under a blanket, and sitting on a toilet,” they said, “so people certainly have fun with it.”
hitchBOT has a bucket for a torso, blue swimming-pool noodles for arms and legs and a smiling LED panel for a face, protected by a cake saver. It wears yellow gloves on its hands, and wellies — rubber boots — on its feet. Inside is a simple tablet PC and some components from Arduino, the open-source electronics platform. Together, all the parts cost about $1,000.
“We wanted to see what we can build on a shoestring budget … and with tools/components that one can get in any hardware store,” Smith and Zeller said.
Thanks to its computerized innards and speech software, hitchBOT can answer basic questions, make small talk and recite info from Wikipedia. It can also get pretty chatty, not always something you want in a road-trip companion.
“We knew that sometimes … hitchBOT won’t be able to properly understand what people are saying. For these cases, we came up with the solution to let hitchBOT simply chatter away,” its creators said. “We taught hitchBOT to say that sometimes it gets a bit carried away, and that its programmers could only write that many scripts, hoping for people to be patient.”
hitchBOT records its journey via GPS. It contains a camera and snaps random photos every half hour or so, which are moderated before being posted online to protect people’s privacy. It also can record conversations with people it meets — with their permission — as a sort of audio diary.
Humans who encounter hitchBOT are directed to its website, where instructions tell them how to handle the robot (tip: drop it off at rest stops or gas stations instead of alone on busy highways).
Smith and Zeller say the goal of their project is to examine the relationship between humans and “smart” technologies while seeing whether an anthropomorphic robot can engender good will, cooperation and even affection.
Instagram has some pictures of hitchBOT. Here are a couple of them.
Google Search provides more images.
HitchBOT On Way Home
HitchBOT successfully completed the trip and is now on the way home as reported by Tech Times.
The kindly people of Canada have helped hitchBOT make it from the country’s east coast to its western reaches and, so far, the hitchhiking robot hasn’t been rerouted to an electronics supply store and scrapped for spare circuitry.
HitchBOT has already traveled the roughly 60 hour, 6,227-kilometer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia, and is on its way back home. The cross-country trip is a social experiment, of sorts, as the team behind the hitchhiking robot is seeking to study interactions between humans and artificial intelligence.
“I was conceived in Port Credit, Ontario,” states hitchBOT. “My guardians are Dr. David Smith (McMaster University), and Dr. Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University). Growing up I was surrounded by bright, intelligent, and supportive people who I am proud to call my family. I have one sibling, kulturBOT, who travels from one art gallery to the next, tweeting photos of the artwork and of the venues.”
The talkative robot has been offering to chat up drivers about topics such as astrophysics and philosophy and it is sharing its soul-searching journey on Instagram and Twitter. While hitchBOT is conversational, its English skills aren’t perfect yet.
“After much thought and contemplation, I’ve come to realize that there is so much to experience beyond the boundaries of Toronto,” stated hitchBOT before setting out. “Every time I think about all of the mountains and valleys, towns and inlets, and people and lifestyles that exist across Canada, I become increasingly excited — and nervous at the same time — about my hitchhiking journey across Canada.”
Hitchbot vs. Bubble Headed Booby
No offense to hitchBOT, but it looks rather like the “bubble headed booby” from Lost in Space.
Looks don’t count. So congratulations to hitchBOT and the hitchBOT team!
Mike “Mish” Shedlock