Hitchhiking robot finishes cross-Canada trip

Three weeks and 3,700 miles later, the hitchhiking-robot appropriately named hitchBOT has completed its journey through Canada, having relied entirely on the kindness of strangers and its tablet-and-Arduino brains. The robot’s adventure, which began in Halifax on July 27, ended in Victoria on Saturday.

Despite the journey having taken only 21 days, it has been exhausting expedition, even for a robot. hitchBOT sustained minor injuries including a cracked LED shield protector, and its speech is “a little bit more random than it was at the start of the trip.” Nevertheless, Smith notes, the team was elated to report the robot’s journey went off without any problems and it even made countless friends along the way.

“I’m on a boat,” hitchBOT tweeted Saturday night from a British Columbia ferry with a photo showing some fellow passengers. “I’m on my way,” he shared with followers.

hitchbo

“We’re elated. It’s been really great fun and to me it seems like it [has] brought people together in a really interesting way,” explained co-creator David Smith, a professor at McMaster University.

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The initial goal of the project, as explained by its creators in a recent news release, was to test how comfortable humans are when traveling with robots, while also seeing how a robot would react to an unpredictable situation. Every 30 minutes or so, hitchBot would snap and send a photo to headquarters and its social media accounts via its 3G wireless connectivity. Based on the photos people have been tweeting and sharing on social media, it appears a vast majority of public have grown to love the adorable fellow. To make picking up hitchBot a bit easier, the gadget came equipped with a car seat attached to its torso so it can be easily strapped to cars and a GPS system so that researchers can track its travels. In addition, it has speech recognition software and can answer simple questions.

Anne Saulnier watches as her husband Brian buckles up the anthropomorphic robot named hitchBOT near Halifax

Trekking coast-to-coast can be a daunting task, and certainly energy draining to say the least. When hitchBOT was running low on battery, it would ask its driver to plug it into an outlet or cigarette lighter within the car. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the hitchhiking gizmo merely consisted of a tablet and Atmel based electronics for a brain, a bucket for a torso, blue swimming-pool noodles for limbs, and a smiling LED panel for a face, which was protected by a cake saver. It wore yellow gloves on its hands and rubber boots on its feet. Together, all the parts set the Makers back only about $1,000; however, the experience of picking up this friendly robot… priceless.

So what’s next for the two-foot-tall bot? Well, unfortunately, robots can’t get driver’s licenses… yet.

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