HitchBOT, Canada’s hitch hiking robot!

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!


Canadians in Wimbledon? and MLB? and NBA?

Last Sunday afternoon, I turned on Wimbledon to find that a Canadian woman was competing in the championship match. At first, I found this ironic and comical. Of course a Canadian was playing in the championship of Wimbledon just as I started working at MSU’s Canadian Studies Center. Then, I reconsidered. Why shouldn’t Canadians be internationally involved in athletics other than hockey? After doing a bit of research I felt silly for ever wondering that.

I stumbled upon a list of Canada’s greatest athletes of all time and was intrigued to notice the variety of sports represented. Of course, there was an exceptional representation from hockey with a considerable list of hockey players such as, Wayne Gretzky known as “The Great One”, Gordie Howe, Maurice and Henry Richard, and Bobby Orr. Yet, there was a wide range of other spots represented such as, sprinters, rowers, boxers, skiers, as well as golf, tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball and football players(who even knew that Canada had a football team?).

Although hockey remains the most popular sport in Canada, other sports such as tennis, baseball, and basketball are on the rise. During this past Wimbledon tournament four Canadians, Frank Dancovic, Milos Raonic, Sharon Fichman, and Eugenie Bouchard competed. Raonic and Bouchard both advanced to the semifinals with Bouchard competing in the woman’s championship match. Although Bouchard did not win the championship, I think it’s safe to say that Canadian tennis is on its way to becoming the number one tennis nation in North America.

Yet, tennis isn’t the only athletic area that Canada is excelling. Canada’s Toronto Blue Jays are currently ranked second in the American League East conference above both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Furthermore, the Canadian NBA team, Toronto Raptors just signed the first round pick of Bruno Caboclo to a rookie contract. Canada seems to be diversifying and prevailing at all forms of athletics.

United States athletics better step up their game before Canadians fully take over. Americans may start watching the Canadian Football League (CFL) instead of the National Football League (NFL) in fact, Bleacher Report Correspondent, Jim Flannery claims, “I have long maintained that the CFL is a superior sport…”