A robot has successfully – and safely – hitchhiked 6000km across Canada.
It took HitchBOT three weeks, but the experimental bot reached the Canadian Pacific coast at Victoria on Sunday after leaving Nova Scotia on July 26.
Looking something like a large blender with pool noodles for arms and legs, HitchBOT was created by a team from Ontario’s McMaster University as an experiment to test human-robot interaction.
Or, as researcher Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University, put it: “This project asks: can robots trust human beings?”
HitchBOT scored its first lift just two minutes after team leader David Smith placed it roadside.
In the three weeks that followed, it became the toast of Twitter, collecting 34,000 followers which no doubt helped make its journey easier.
HitchBOT has a GPS system and uses speech recognition software to help it communicate with drivers. It even references Wikipedia articles about the surrounding region in an effort to keep up the small talk while travelling.
If its solar power was running low, HitchBOT told drivers to plug it into their cigarette lighter or power outlets.
Smith told katu.com that HitchBOT’s fame meant it wasn’t unusual for drivers to seek it out, but even so, the bot’s artificial life was never in danger.
The team had replacement robots on standby in case HitchBOT was nicked, but the one that arrived on the West coast – via a final ferry ride – was the same as that which left the East coast three weeks earlier.
The most widely reported adventure was when he joined one couple for their wedding and even interrupted the bride’s speech by saying, “I like to make friends.”
“We’re elated,” Smith told the BBC. “It’s been really great fun and to me it seems like it brought people together in a really interesting way.”
Here’s a few tweets from HitchBOT’s epic journey.
— mjbberry (@mjbberry) August 10, 2014
— Rolla Olak (@rollaolak) August 12, 2014
— Mike LeBlanc (@mikecue) July 28, 2014
— Roy howell (@RoyhowellJR) August 8, 2014
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