Last summer, researchers Dr. David Smith from McMaster University, and Dr. Frauke Zeller from Ryerson University set out to answer a question which we surely all ask ourselves from time to time: what would anonymous human-robot interaction look like?
To answer this question, the Canadian researchers built “hitchBOT,” a simple automaton who completed an ambitious, 3,700-mile journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia by way of hitchhiking rides from strangers along the Trans-Canada Highway. This year, hitchBOT sought to do it all over again, crossing the United States instead of Canada.
Alas, as Autoblog reports, several Luddites from Philadelhpia, Pennsylvania proved all too eager to show America incapable of the same trustworthiness and hospitality as Canada’s citizenry; hitchBOT was tragically beaten and vandalized, its head and internal tablet removed. The Canadian researchers only found out about the random act of violence after an email from a hitchBOT fan.
HitchBOT Project Manager Brigitte Dreger told Autoblog that the friendly experimental robot had been “damaged beyond repair,” and a first-person account on the hitchBOT website reads: “Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!
“My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thank you to all my friends.”
Autoblog further reports that the Canadian researchers are not pursuing charges against the Philadelphia vandals.