Wed July 30, 2014
Meet HitchBOT, The Robotic Hitchhiking Wonder
Originally published on Fri August 1, 2014 6:40 am
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Well, if you're on the highway in Canada, keep an eye out for this unusual hitchhiker
HITCHBOT: my name is HitchBOT
CORNISH: HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot.
HITCHBOT: This summer I will be traveling across Canada from coast to coast. I am hoping to make new friends and see new places along the way.
CORNISH: And HitchBOT's got, let's say, a unique look.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
And the robot's about three feet tall with a bucket for a body, pool noodles for limbs, yellow gloves for hands, rain boots for feet and an LED screen for a face.
DAVID HARRIS SMITH: HitchBOT has what we've been called a yard sale aesthetic.
CORNISH: That's David Harris Smith of McMaster University, co-creator of HitchBOT. He wanted HitchBOT to look friendly and nonthreatening, which comes in handy when you're trying to bum a ride.
SHAPIRO: And it worked.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is awesome, does he need a drive today?
SHAPIRO: Several news crews were on hand to capture the moment when HitchBOT snagged its first ride on Sunday in Halifax. That's on the coast for you non-Canadians.
CORNISH: HitchBOT equipped with GPS so you can actually go online and follow its journey. It can also take photos, record sound and post on social media. Like any human hitchhiker, it can engage in some small talk.
HITCHBOT: Would you like to have a conversation?
SHAPIRO: HitchBOT also encourages the people it encounters to take photos and post them online. So far we have HitchBOT on the side of the road.
CORNISH: HitchBOT on a bench.
SHAPIRO: HitchBOT on a toilet.
CORNISH: HitchBOT in a bed under the sheets.
SHAPIRO: Those are some adventures.
CORNISH: Which is exactly what Smith wants. Part science experiment, part art project. The goal of HitchBOT is to explore the evolving relationship between people and robots.
SHAPIRO: HitchBOT's final destination is all the way across Canada in Victoria, British Columbia. Last we checked, it had made it as far as Montréal - more than 700 miles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.