hitchBOT went on its last trip this year.
This immobile robot hitchhiked its way across Canada.

Photo courtesy: Ryerson University

This robot had a better summer than you

In Business & Technology /

By Laura Woodward

Meet hitchBOT: a robot that travelled over 6,000 kilometres across Canada solely by hitching rides from friendly strangers along the Trans-Canada highway.

Made from a bucket body, poolnoodle limbs with gloves for hands and Wellington boots for feet, hitchBOT has no capability of independent movement and is entirely dependent on humans for transportation, yet still travelled more than you did.

The robot began its solo journey on July 27 on the side of a highway in Halifax. Eighteen rides later, hitchBOT reached its destination in Victoria on Aug. 18.

“My journey’s success is reliant on those kind-hearted souls that I’ll hopefully meet along the way,” hitchBOT wrote on its blog.

The robot was first conceived in 2013 by Ryerson’s Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor in the School of Professional Communication and David Harris Smith, assistant professor in the department of communication studies and multimedia at McMaster University.

“Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?” Zeller said in a press release.

hitchBOT has a GPS to track its progress, as well as a camera and the ability to tweet and Instagram photos to keep its creators and fans posted on its travels.

At the end of hitchBOT’s threeweek journey, it gained over 35,000 followers on Twitter. The robot has a microphone and basic machine vision to detect motion and speech. It can also speak, mainly expressing its demand that people plug it into the cigarette lighters in their cars to charge its battery.

hitchBOT managed to attend a powwow in Northern Ontario, meet celebrity groundhog Wiarton Willie and crash a wedding.

When it arrived in Victoria, its mechanical arm was broken but it was otherwise in good shape.

The robot’s body is now covered in pins and hand-written messages from its fellow travellers – covered in summer memories that make yours seem just sad.

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