The question is: Are they nice enough to pick up a stranded, hitchhiking robot?
The world will soon know. HitchBOT, a friendly little robot developed by researchers at several Ontario universities, is set to begin its journey from Halifax to Victoria on Sunday, relying solely on the kindness of strangers.
“I will be traveling across Canada, from coast-to-coast this summer, hoping to make new friends, have interesting conversations, and see new places along the way,” Hitchbot explains on its site. “As you may have guessed robots cannot get driver’s licenses yet, so I’ll be hitchhiking my entire way.”
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Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University and David Harris Smith at McMaster University conceived and developed the charismatic robot as part art project, part social robotics experiment, with the help of a few other researchers.
HitchBOT can’t move on its own, except to stick its thumb in the air. But it can converse with people. So the test will be whether a robot can negotiate its way along the nearly 4,000-mile route (which may well dip into the U.S.).
It shouldn’t hurt that the robot is adorable: It looks like they crossed car-wash air dancers with a bucket, and threw on rubber boots.
“I am excited and a bit nervous about whether people will pick me up or if they will be nice to me along the way,” HitchBOT admits. “I don’t have a specific route and I’m not sure how long it will take but I’m up for the adventure. I hope my fellow Canadians will help me with my journey.”
For now, check out the robot’s video, below:
HitchBOT has already scored its first ride!