Hitchhiking robot runs into trouble in Philly In this July 17, 2015, file photo, a car drives by HitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot in Marblehead, Mass. The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment say someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair on Saturday, Aug. 1, ending its brief American tour. The robot was trying to travel cross-country after successfully hitchhiking across Canada last year and parts of Europe. (AP Photo)
Hitchhiking robot runs into trouble in Philly
Lexile

A hitchhiking robot that captured the hearts of fans worldwide has met its demise in the U.S.

The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment told The Associated Press that someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair, which ended its American tour Aug. 1 after about two weeks.

"Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators.

The kid-size robot set out to travel cross-country after successfully hitchhiking across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe. It's immobile on its own, relying on the kindness of strangers. Those who picked it up often passed it to other travelers or left it where others might notice it.

It started in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17. Its thumb was raised skyward, with a grin on its digital face and tape wrapped around its cylindrical head that read "San Francisco or bust."

The robot bounced around the Boston area and 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 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 and carry on limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels.

During past travels, the robot attended a comic convention and 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 it to protect young fans who might be distraught.

"I hope that people won't be too disappointed, too sad," she said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What did researchers learn from this "social experiment?"
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COMMENTS (2)
  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    9/24/2015 - 09:39 p.m.

    I think this is a good experiment because it shows the kindness of strangers to hitchhikers. Although the robot successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days, it was destroyed in 2 weeks and it was still in the East Coast. This could probably prove that not everyone is kind and will try to hurt you when you hitchhike.
    What did researchers learn from this "social experiment?"
    Answer: Researchers learned from this "social experiment" that not all strangers are nice.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/04/2016 - 02:46 a.m.

    The hitchhiking robot might have been able to get a big tour across American which the researchers had been able to follow the path of the hitchhiking robot until the end, the hitchhiking robot wasn't going to make it. The researchers might have been able to follow the hitchhiking robot across the whole U.S. which some people might have wrecked the robot and the researchers would have to fix the robot. The robot might have been able to reach some other places that would attend some events that would had happened during its travel across the whole U.S. Researches had been able to track down on where the robot is located at now after the battery had died out which they would have to be giving the robot a last hitchhiking in California.
    Critical Thinking Question: What did researchers learn from this "social experiment?
    Answer: The researchers learned from the social experiments that the place that the robot visited might have gotten the researchers to be looking at the places that the robot had been taken to.

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