Hitchhiking robot runs into trouble in Philly
A hitchhiking robot that won the hearts of fans around the world has met its end. It happened in the U.S.
The Canadian researchers who made hitchBOT as a social experiment told The Associated Press that someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot. It cannot be repaired. That ended its American tour Aug. 1. The tour lasted about two weeks.
"Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller. She is one of its co-creators.
The kid-size robot had set out to travel across America. This was after it hitchhiked across Canada in 26 days last year. It also hitchhiked through parts of Europe. It's immobile on its own. It relies on the kindness of strangers. Those who picked it up often passed it to other travelers. Sometimes they left it where others might notice it.
It started in Marblehead, Massachusetts. That was on July 17. Its thumb was raised skyward. A grin was on its digital face. Tape was wrapped around its cylindrical head. The tape read "San Francisco or bust."
The robot bounced around the Boston area. It even was briefly taken to sea. One day, it took in a Red Sox game. But hitchBOT never made it off the East Coast.
The creators were sent an image of the vandalized robot. But they couldn't track its location. That's because the battery was dead. They said they don't know who destroyed it or why.
The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion. It could toss out factoids. It could have limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location. A camera randomly took photos about every 20 minutes. This was to document its travels.
During past travels, the robot attended a comic convention. It also went to a wedding. And it had its portrait painted in the Netherlands. It once spent a week with a heavy metal band.
With the robot destroyed, Zeller said she was most concerned about children who loved hitchBOT and followed it on social media. Her team doesn't plan to release the last photo of hitchBOT. That is to protect young fans who might be upset.
"I hope that people won't be too disappointed, too sad," she said.