hitchBOT is a robot hitchhiker's guide to winning social media

How an AI has captured the hearts of road users and Twitter
A robot hitchhiker's guide to winning social media

A rather unlikely hitchhiker goes by the name hitchBOT and it's made from household and salvaged material. Why hitchBOT, you ask? Because it made the entire journey across the continent simply by hitchhiking.

The whole time, hitchBOT also tweeted its journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia to British Columbia – attracting some 30,000 strong cult followers.

The robot is 3.5 feet tall, weighs about 15 pounds and is gender neutral, though the robot speaks with a feminine-sounding voice and voice recognition software to communicate with other humans. Its main body is a beer cooler, while the LED panels that light up its face sit in a plastic cake saver fashioned with a garbage can lid for a hat.

“It is really defenseless,” said Colin Gagich, a 19-year-old engineering student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario who helped build the robot in his basement.

I, HitchBot

A robot hitchhiker's guide to winning social media

The robots' creators felt the need to overturn the prevailing hostility to robots, no doubt suffered from figures like the Terminator or Cylons that portray evil machines. Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor at Ryerton University and one of hitchBOT's creators postulates that humans think about whether we can trust robots; the project asks whether robots can trust humans.

So far, it is assuredly yes. If travelling the continent, riding the kindness of strangers isn't enough affirmation, hitchBOT needs to be charged every six hours and it hasn't run out yet. The robot has even expressed owning a dog on one of the rides, and its host had bought a plush dog and even a small pink backpack for the robot to carry it with. One of the robot's Twitter followers dubbed it “Hiker the Dog”.

The robot carries quite a winning personality as well. As a cult celebrity, the robot has complained about “the expectations for me to be so clever all the time.” In an interview, it didn't hesitate to speak its mind: “I think you are just making up rubbish deliberately to confuse me.”

Along the way, the robot's proven to be a wealth of Canadian trivia – expressing opinions on the history of Saskatchewan and the Manitoba, and the growth of French-English bilinguism in Canadian youth.


[Source: WSJ]