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Research and Academics
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hitchBOT Robot Tries to Hitchhike Across Canada
hitchBOT will begin its journey July 27 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and try to thumb its way across Canada to Victoria, British Columbia.
By Judith Pfeffer - Filed Jun 26, 2014

This is an artist concept of what hitchBOT will look like and encounter as he begins his transcontinental trek.

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In a refreshing role reversal, a robot is now going to have to trust human beings and will be depending, as Tennessee Williams once put it, on the kindness of strangers.

That's the plan of Canadian college professors starting next month as they will chart the progress of a hitchhiking robot named, appropriately enough, hitchBOT. They want to observe what happens and particularly how motorists treat a robot attempting to travel.

The wellies-wearing robot, which is not quite finished being built, will begin the voyage near the Atlantic Ocean on July 27 at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. hitchBOT hopes to make it all the way to the Pacific, to the Open Space Gallery in Victoria, British Columbia.

Internet enthusiasts will be able to follow his progress on Twitter (try also the hashtags #hitchbot and #robotrights), InstagramFacebook and Wikipedia. And of course he has his own website, because, really, what self-respecting road robot does not these days?

Here's more from FastCompany:

"Communications studies researchers David Harris Smith at McMaster University and Frauke Zeller at Ryerson University conceived of hitchBot as an experiment.

"Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots … but this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings? they say. (This is not their first mutual creation: kulturBOT 1.0, a robotic art show reviewer that attends and tweets at exhibitions, is the older sibling.)

"Hopefully hitchBOT's outgoing and charismatic personality will help him make his case. He’ll be equipped with the ability to recognize speech and converse with his travel companions, recording their stories. With the Wikipedia database in his memory, he'll also be excellent at trivia games to pass the time. He also likes (appropriate music, such as the 1970s proto-techno band Kraftwerk and the hit song (from 1980s band Styx) Mr. Roboto.

"The only part of hitchBOT that can move will be the right arm to, you know, be able to hitch a ride. He'll have some solar panels for charging, but will also ask drivers to plug him into their cigarette lighter for some juice. Inside, hitchBOT has a camera and GPS, so he can record his journey, ask drivers to share their stories, and, of course, be tracked by his creators."





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