The smiling robot that last year successfully hitchhiked across Canada, hitchBOT, is back to tempt the fates with a road trip across the United States.
The three-foot-tall bot, completely immobile and relying (like all hitchhikers) on the kindness of strangers to make its journey, departed from Salem, Massachusetts, last Friday after being left on the side of a highway. An hour and a half later, some German tourists pulled up and officially got the ball rolling on hitchBOT's journey.
The robot comes equipped with GPS and a camera, allowing it to document its journey online to its almost 40,000 Twitter followers. It also has limited speech capabilities thanks to voice recognition software, as well as a battery meter so strangers can kindly hook it up with a power source when it gets low. As of today, hitchBOT appears to be in downtown Boston, but beyond that, it's anyone's guess where it will go next.
“It has a really low-tech look to it, something we dubbed the ‘yard-sale aesthetic,’” co-creator David Harris Smith, an assistant professor in communication studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario told the AP. “The head is actually an acrylic cake-saver.”
While hitchBOT takes photos every 20 minutes to document its journey, the team behind the experiment is quick to seek permission from the people pictured before posting to social media.
“We want to be very careful to avoid surveillance technologies with this; that’s not what we’re trying to do here,” Smith added.
Because hitchBOT looks like a glorified bucket, its creators thought it deserved a great American bucket list to go along with its journey. To that end, they've included a list of tourist spots along the way such as New York City's Times Square, Yellowstone's geysers, Arizona's Grand Canyon and New Orleans' jazz scene.
“It’s a type of emergent narrative,” Smith told BetaBoston. “Nobody knows for certain how it will branch or what kinds of adventures will happen.”
Want to follow along with the fun or see when hitchBOT might be sitting on a road near you? Check out its official tracking site here.
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