Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hitchin' a ride..........

The team has concluded that "they expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough to secure rides through Canada."

hitchBot is a robotics project run by Dr David Harris Smith and a team from McMaster University.  The team includes members from Ryerson University, McMaster, University of Toronto and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and is a joint effort between the Institute of Applied Creativity and the Anne Leononwens Gallery. On July 27, hitchBOT began it's planned trip across Canada by hitchhiking with motorists.

The robot was constructed very cheaply to help deter people from trying to take components.  The team used pool noodles, rubber boots, a bucket, gloves and a cake saver for it's head.  It is both a engineering experiment and a social one.  The team is using hitchBOT to prove if robots can trust humans, the opposite of what usually is questioned.

The team will be tracking it's progress along the trip and there is no planned end date........ it will end when hitchBOT reaches Victoria BC.  People can also keep track of hitchBOT through it's Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter.  It is a totally helpless robot but definitely not mute.  hitchBOT has been programmed to carry on a conversation with anyone who is giving it a ride or just finds it beside the road looking to bum a ride.

The team hopes that hitchBOT will also be able to see some of the sights along the way, so they are encouraging people to not just give it a ride but include it in their sightseeing.  It hitched it's first ride with a kind couple that took it as far as Kouchibouguac National Park where three young men were the next to pick up hitchBOT.  They picked it up at the campground and drove it around New Brunswick, introducing it to people at rest stops.  At one point, hitchBOT stated that it wanted a pet dog so they stopped and bought a stuffed dog for it.  They left both the dog and hitchBOT in Campbellton.

From there, it took a ride back east for a while and checked into a campground before heading back to Campbellton to try and head west.  The robot is unable to do anything but talk and wait for it's next ride.  People who give hitchBOT a ride will have to plug it into their car's lighter so that it can recharge it's batteries.  The vulnerability is part of the experiment that hitchBOT is a part of...... instead of trying to gauge how much humans will fear a robot, they created a robot that is so dependent that they will try to gauge how much a robot can trust people.

One thing is for certain..... hitchBOT will probably be a lot safer hitching in Canada instead of the US.  Who knows what field it may end up in after a serial "BOT" killer picks it up.

Update August 4:

hitchBot has been making great time since it's small back-tracking adventure.  It stopped off in Toronto to visit with family, has photo-opped with the Wiarton Willy as well as attending the Powwow in Wikwiemikong.  So far, it looks as though people are having a lot of fun giving hitchBOT a ride across Canada and making sure that they share their experience with as many other people that they can.  Evidently..... hitchBOT has acquired a real liking to camping as well, as evidenced by the pictures that keep showing up on it's Facebook page.

Update: August 9 2014:

hitchBot has made it half way across Canada sharing rides with strangers.  A Belgian couple who is traveling from east to west through Canada on holiday gave it a ride to Thunder Bay.  They had originally spotted it while it was enjoying the Pow Wow but it was already traveling with others.  It was a few days later that they passed hitchBOT hanging out on the beach north of Sault St Marie and picked it up.  hitchBOT got to ride shotgun with the couple who left it off in Thunder Bay with a small sticker to mark their time together.  While they could have brought all the way west with them, they chose to let hitchBOT continue exploring Canada with other travelers.

Update August 14 2014:

hitchBOT has finally made it to British Columbia but not after it partied it up and crashed a wedding.  It has been reported that it was waiting to hitch a motorcycle ride to Vancouver BC and it will finally have made it all the way across Canada.......... way to go!

Update Aug 21 2014:

hitchBot finished it's trip across Canada in about three weeks and it's family is elated.  It arrived a little worse for wear but all in one piece and in less time than they had expected.  They are also happy to know that hitchBOT was not just a small local "thing" but is known internationally through it's travels.

It reached Victoria BC on Tuesday, has made a tour of the town as well as crossing the border to Seattle WA.  On Thursday night it will have a farewell appearance at the Open Space Arts Society from 7 to 9:30 pm for anyone wishing to meet the famous little traveling robot.

No comments: