Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Philadelphia

by -
hitchbot

A Canadian hitchhiking robot, hitchBOT, was traveling the globe in the backseat of friendly drivers’ cars–until it made it to Philadelphia.

Just two weeks after leaving Boston, Massachusetts, and setting off for San Francisco, California, hitchBOT was found vandalized and decapitated by the side of the road outside of Philadelphia, with all of its limbs removed. The robot is apparently destroyed beyond repair.

“HitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City,” said a statement from hitchBOT’s website. “Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots.”

HitchBOT had been maneuvering around through the kindness of strangers who picked the robot up on the side of the road–similar to how they would a human hitchhiker. The robot previously more than 6,000 miles, across Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany. It survived both of those countries without harm.

The purpose of hitchBOT was to study how people interact with robots–namely, whether or not drivers would stop and help the robot get to its next destination (and check items off its programmed “bucket list” of things it wanted to see as it crossed America.) The robot could apparently chat, and respond to some conversation, with the drivers of the car that picked it up, but could not move on its own.

While the creators of hitchBOT have vowed not to press charges–or even search for the person or people responsible for killing a robot–the vandals might be out of luck. Allegedly, a security camera caught the final minutes of hitchBOT; the grainy footage shows a man stomping on hitchBOT’s head against the curb, and later pulling off each of its limbs.

The suspects have not been found, but already a number of private groups, like the Philadelphia-based group the Hacktory, have offered to help rebuild hitchBOT so it could continue on its trip across America.

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