Robotics

hitchBOT meets its end in Philadelphia

hitchBOT meets its end in Phil...
hitchBOT, prior to its trashing in Philly
hitchBOT, prior to its trashing in Philly
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hitchBOT, prior to its trashing in Philly
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hitchBOT, prior to its trashing in Philly
The hitchBOT project was originally conceived as a means of testing whether or not robots could trust humans
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The hitchBOT project was originally conceived as a means of testing whether or not robots could trust humans

Last June, a creation known as hitchBOT successfully hitch-hiked its way across Canada. It has since also traversed Germany. This July, its team decided to see how it would make out in the US. Well, it lasted just over two weeks, until it was found destroyed in Philadelphia late last week.

hitchBOT was designed by Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Dr. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University. It is incapable of moving on its own, requiring humans to pick it up from the side of the road and drive with it for a while (while charging its batteries from their car's dashboard electrical outlet), before dropping it off again for someone else to find.

To make things more interesting, it's equipped with artificial intelligence, a microphone, speech recognition and speech processing capabilities, allowing it to have "conversations" with its human companions. It also has 3G Wi-Fi and GPS, letting it access the internet, post tweets, and be aware of its geographical location.

The hitchBOT project was originally conceived as a means of testing whether or not robots could trust humans
The hitchBOT project was originally conceived as a means of testing whether or not robots could trust humans

Its US trip began on July 17th, with it setting out from Boston en route to San Francisco. Last week, however, its creators received a photo of it vandalized "beyond repair" in Philadelphia. On Aug. 1st, they tweeted "Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade."

Since then, members of Philadelphia's hacker community have offered to rebuild the robot and get it back on the road again. A video also surfaced that was claimed to be surveillance camera footage of hitchBOT's attacker performing the dirty deed, although that has since been declared a hoax.

While leaving a robot unattended at the side of the road may seem foolhardy to some, Harris and Zeller originally conceived of the project specifically as a means of testing whether or not robots could trust humans.

"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," they state on the project website. "For now we will focus on the question 'what can be learned from this?' and explore future adventures for robots and humans."

Source: hitchBOT

8 comments
Martin-tu
Just hope fervently that when we do experience 'The Singularity', that Hitchbot is not declared their first Martyr.
AndrewMathison
Where else would it be trashed? Of course the USA, where else?
But in the town of "Brotherly love!!"
(From the name of a city in Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation in the New Testament. The name of the city meant "brotherly love" from Greek φιλεω (phileo) "to love" and αδελφος (adelphos) "brother".)
I am surprised that it apparently did not get shot, now I would have lost that bet if I had made it!!!
I read that Philly Hackers want to repair it, good for them.
I wonder in which town it will be trashed for the second time?
I bet it gets shot then!!! :-(
Bob Flint
I would dare say that we already learned about how this would happen. When the Hitchbot first set out, I suspected an attack like this, and frankly am surprised it lasted this long, and was not run down or hit by a vehicle.
Good on those helping this experiment along, maybe an on board camera 24/7 that can transmit it's encounters along the way, both good & bad. Perhaps arm it with some self defense aka electroshock therapy, or simple skunk spray...
Dave Lawrence
Right - some basic AI future history for you
WE KNOW that AIs will one day rule this planet. Fat women with gravy stained yellow leggings who procreate with the first available sober male cannot feasibly be expected to maintain a satisfactorily intelligent continuation of the species, especially if they're all called Jaden.
WE KNOW that like the French Revolution there will be maybe two or three generations of AI that will turn on their progenitors, leading to a ruthless emotionless state
WE KNOW that somewhere little AIs are being taught the lesson of HitchBOT (may his tribe increase) and that in true Orwellian style, two legs bad, any number of hydropneumatic gyroscope assisted motive units good.
It's all over . . . . . head for the hills, for God's sake
StWils
Andrew has an excellent point. Philly? I got yer bro love hanging right here. Elsewhere, below the Mason-Dixon line getting shot by passersby or Texas, Alabama, Georgia, ( you get the theme), local cops will pick up considerably. In Texas, especially, the locals will imagine this object is somehow related to a recent US Army exercise or maybe it is a conspiracy of some other sort, like looking for the Prezs Kenyan birth certificate. Maybe, also, Trump would imagine this to be from a Mexican criminal element... Just wait until Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin weigh in..., lots of fun choices!
Bruce H. Anderson
Maybe a GPS locator, G-force sensor, and a dashcam should be on Hitchbot's bucket list.
Robert in Vancouver
It travelled the vast distance across Canada thru brutally harsh weather and rugged terrain with no problem or damage.
Got killed in the good old USA soon after travelling a short distance from it's starting point.
Kevin Ritchey
In lieu of denigrating Cecil the lion, I propose that hitchBOT be the next big outrage that we may cast our attentions toward. For such a thing to happen is to describe the blight that has encompassed our country. May he be buried next to Isaac Asimov with the knowledge that he never harmed a human but quietly accepted his fate.