Bad things happen to good robots

2015-08-03 20:29
Someone in Philadelphia damaged HitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot, beyond repair ending its brief American tour. (Stephan Savoia, AP File)

Someone in Philadelphia damaged HitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot, beyond repair ending its brief American tour. (Stephan Savoia, AP File)

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Washington - HitchBOT - the adorable hitch-hiking robot cobbled together from household odds-and-ends - prematurely ended its summer travels across America, after being destroyed by vandals and abandoned on the side of a road, its creators said.

Envisioned as a social experiment to see if its kind could trust humans, the talking humanoid got its answer - sadly - when it was found dismantled and left for dead at a roadside in Philadelphia.

"Oh dear, my body was damaged," the injured robot wrote on its website over the weekend.

"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."

The little talking automaton had hitchhiked unscathed last summer across thousands of miles in Canada, and had traversed parts of Europe as well without so much as a scratch.

But it had travelled from only just north of Boston to Philadelphia - a distance of about 500km, covered in about two weeks' time - when it was torn asunder by unknown assailants.

Pictures posted on the internet showed various components of the robot strewn on the ground, damaged beyond repair.

Researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto who devised the hitchBOT experiment, put the best possible face on the demise of their creation.

"We know that many of hitchBOT's fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question 'what can be learned from this?' and explore future adventures for robots and humans," they wrote on their websitewww.hitchBot.me.

They added: "We have no interest in pressing charges or finding the people who vandalized hitchBOT."

HitchBOT had what was described as a "yard-sale aesthetic," assembled for about $1 000 from parts found in a typical home or hardware store.

The robot relied on the kindness of strangers to get from place to place. It was able to strike up a conversation and can answer trivia questions by consulting information using its built-in computers.

And hitchBOT was able to tell the driver who gave it a lift when it was tired and in need of recharging from a car's cigarette lighter.

It had a certain shabby chic charm, with an an LED-lit smiley face wrapped in a transparent cake saver set atop a plastic beer pail, and had swimming pool noodles for limbs.

Its feet were rubber boots and it sported yellow latex gloves - including one with its thumb permanently extended to show it wanted to catch a ride.

Although its travels are apparently over, "we wish to remember the good times, and we encourage hitchBOT's friends and fans to do the same," the robot's creators wrote.

Read more on:    us  |  canada  |  research  |  robotics

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