hitchBOT kicks off its German adventure


The friendly hitchhiking robot is back. This time it’s headed for the Autobahn.


After completing its three-week, 3,700-miles trek across Canada last summer, the hitchhiking robot named hitchBOT has returned. This time it’s headed for the autobahn. The friendly device, which relies entirely on the kindness of strangers and its tablet-and-Arduino brains, has kicked off its latest 10-day adventure through Germany.

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hitchBOT is outfitted with a rubber hitchhiking hand, speech recognition software, and even its own Wi-Fi network that it uses to offer regionally-specific tidbits of information that it picks up along the way. This allows it to engage in conversation, send tweets and even engage in a game of trivia. In fact, the Atmel based device is programmed to explain itself to those who decide to pick it up, and can ask to be plugged in to keep its battery charged. While its German skills are a bit limited, it does know enough to get by and can share a conversation around his hobbies — these include soccer, hockey, baking and riding.

Every 30 minutes or so, hitchBOT snaps and sends a photo to headquarters and its social media accounts via its built-in wireless connectivity. Meanwhile, an on-board GPS allows for the public to track its travels. During the German journey, it will will take to the throne room in Neuschwanstein, and while in Cologne, will hitch a ride on the Rose Monday train. Then, the Canadian embassy will officially welcome the bot to Berlin at the city’s Brandenburg Gate.

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Powered by a simple tablet and Arduino, the friendly robot has a bucket for a torso, blue swimming-pool noodles for limbs and a smiling LED panel for a face, which is protected by a cake saver. It wears yellow gloves on its hands and rubber boots on its feet. Together, all the parts cost about $1,000; however, the experience of picking up this friendly robot… priceless.

As for the overall objective behind the project, its creators David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller are aspiring to promote human interaction with robots. Following hitchBOT’s tour, the Makers will analyze data to determine where the robot was more welcome: Canada or Germany.

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Interested in learning more? You can follow along with hitchBOT’s travels here.

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