Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, August 6, 2015



Tragedy occurred in a South Philadelphia neighborhood earlier this week. HitchBOT, the Hitch-hiking Robot was found decapitated in a grungy alleyway. Social Media is outraged. (But then again...when isn't Social Media outraged!?) At any rate, we here at the DUNER BLOG did some research and can now answer your FAQ's:

What is HitchBOT? Two Canadian college students dreamed up the concept of a robotic traveling companion. With a brain based on Wikipedia knowledge, it would be able to carry on conversations with bored drivers. (A real problem on Canada's long, dull highways.) Equipped with basic machine vision, a microphone, GPS tracker and a 3G connection, HitchBOT's parents can easily monitor wherever it goes.

Does HitchBOT have a goal? One of the creators, David Harris, called it "both an artwork and social robotics experiment." His original goal was to see if humans would be kind enough to take HitchBOT on rides across Canada. With no means of movement, the robot would be entirely dependent on the kindness of stangers. It took months, but he made it safely from Halifax to Victoria...over 10,000 kilometers in all!

What is the power source? Once you decide to pick the robot up (HitchBOT is gender neutral) it will ask you to plug him into the cigarette lighter in your car. This replenishes the battery. Fortunately, it doesn't need a lot of power. Since it can't move, it only needs electricity to light up the heart-shaped eyes and to search Wikipedia.

What happened in Philly? After the Canadian trip, HitchBOT toured Germany. Again, he met friendly strangers and shared all online. His American journey began in Boston on July 17th, with a sign reading; "San Francisco or Bust." Twelve days later, after getting a ride from a New Jersey couple, his electronic feed died. Authorities discovered his remains the next morning.

What's next for HitchBOT? As expected, many Philadelphians are shamed that their city doesn't have the "Brotherly Love" anymore. The city that booed Santa Claus is piecing together a grassroots movement to repair and restore HitchBOT and send him back on his way West. It is spearheaded by the Hacktory, a small business that offers classes on how to use tech creatively. Director Georgia Guthrie explained: "Philly has a really bad reputation, but there's enough people who want to help and do something positive."

The creators in Canada have yet to comment...

No comments:

Post a Comment