Photo Courtesy Ryerson University

HitchBOT goes to Germany

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By Victoria Shariati

HitchBOT, the hitchhiking Canadian robot, is starting a new journey: in Germany.

HitchBOT was created 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. The two wanted to see if humans could be trusted, seeing as how the robot’s travels depend completely on help from people driving by.

The robot, made from a bucket body, poolnoodle limbs with gloves for hands and Wellington boots for feet, travelled 6,000 kilometers across Canada, from Halifax to Victoria, solely by hitchhiking on the side of the road.

“I am German, so I was always hoping hitchBOT could make a trip to Europe,” Zeller said.

On Feb. 13, HitchBot will begin its ten-day journey beginning in Munich. It will travel via the Autobahn, Germany’s highway that has no speed limit sections.

“Geographically, Germany is much more country,” Zeller said. “That’s why it’s going to be a round trip rather than East-West or North and South.”

Since hitchBOT will be travelling all around the country, Zeller anticipates some troubles arising as a result of the robot not knowing German dialects.

“In Germany, as in most European countries, there’s a lot of dialect,” Zeller stated. “hitchBOT will have more problems with dialect.”

The robot’s software is getting restructured so the ‘bot can speak German to its fellow travellers.

In terms of technical changes, the team is keeping hitchBOT 2.0 looking exactly the same as its older twin. However, Zeller said that they’d like to make the battery life last longer.

“We’re trying to improve the battery of hitchBOT to 10 hours,” she stated.

Another different aspect will be hitchBOT’s new stardom. The bot will be featured on a popular German television show, Galileo.

“We were contacted by Galileo,” Zeller said. “We have a whole big communications team working at Ryerson collaborating with the team at Galileo.”

Zeller doesn’t expect the TV show aspect of the trip to interfere with hitchBOT’s journey.

“They said they want it to be spontaneous,” she said. “We want to keep the same identity of hitchBOT.”

Just like its Canadian escapade, a GPS will 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.

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