HitchBOT, Canada’s very own hitchhiking robot has become one of my latest fascinations. I mean a talking robot that’s trekking across Canada, who wouldn’t be fascinated?
On Sunday, July 27th, HitchBOT began its 6,000 km journey from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the far east side of Canada. Its final destination? The far west side of Canada in Victoria, British Columbia. This robot can’t walk and has very little protection from people or the elements. It’s armed with rubber gloves, rain boots, pool noodle arms, and a cake server hat. The bot was designed to be about the height of a 6-year-old and that was intentional. Creator Frauke Zeller explains, “(It’s)More the size of a child, so people tend to feel protective like, oh there’s something little I might want to help it.” The bot also has some tricks in its repertoire. It can smile, blink, wink, and chat away for hours with the entirety of Wikipedia memorized.
But what’s the point of this robot, besides serving as an interesting car companion, of course. Well, Zeller explains that for her the purpose is, “Seeing how the robot gets by in our society, fully dependent on human beings.” For fellow creator David Smith HitchBOT serves as a “creative project. I like to think of it as a performative, technological art piece. So, it will ask people if they have a story about hitchhiking or traveling…” Smith further explains the purpose for the bot as, “(it’s) meant to stimulate a reflection on the change in our culture, on our changing kinda social psychology.” Yet, Smith states that this experiment would not be possible in the United States, “Americans are saying oh yeah they’re doing that up in Canada, Canadians are crazy. It’ll probably work in Canada, it’ll never work here, in the States. Because, here in the States we would probably put it into the ditch or shoot it.”
I, personally, would like to think that Smith’s prediction of HitchBOT’s journey through the United States is false, but I’m afraid that he may have a point. So what do you all think. If you were to see HitchBOT on the side of the road would you pick him up? Or would you ignore it? Or maybe even mess around with it? Is it possible that we can analyze the differences in our societies based upon the reactions to a hitchhiking robot?
Tell us what you’re thinking below!