Thumbs up! hitchBOT is making its way from Massachusetts to California this summer.
After enjoying its previous adventures through both Canada and Europe relying solely on the kindness and curiosity of strangers to help get from place to place, the friendly hitchhiking robot known as hitchBOT is back. This time it will be making its way across the United States — starting in Salem, Massachusetts and finishing at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
Though hitchBOT has no set route or idea as to how long it will take to reach California, its creators David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller hope that Americans will take it to see some of its most memorable landmarks and attractions. Among the places on the humanoid’s bucket list are Times Square in New York, Disney World in Florida, Millennium Park in Illinois, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The child-sized bot features a bucket for a torso, blue swimming pool noodles for its limbs, yellow rubber gloves for its hitchhiking hands (with one thumb permanently pointed upwards, of course), an LED face housed inside an acrylic cake saver with a “San Francisco or bust” sign wrapped around its head, along with speech recognition software and even its own 3G/Wi-Fi network that it uses to offer tidbits of local information it picks up along the way. This allows it to engage in limited conversation, send tweets and engage in a game or two 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 a car’s cigarette lighter to keep its battery charged.
hitchBOT is embedded with a simple tablet, an Arduino board and GPS tasked with tracking its location. Aside from that, a camera randomly snaps photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels, which it wirelessly sends to its creators and its social media accounts. Together, all the parts cost about $1,000; however, the experience of picking up this friendly robot… priceless.
With more than 38,000 people following the robot on Twitter and hundreds of others already having posted their own selfies with it, hitchBOT is quite popular. Throughout its journey, researchers are collecting data from social media to study how people interact with a robot that require their help, the opposite of more conventional robots that are designed to assist them.
If you’re lucky enough to come across the friendly fellow this summer, don’t hesitate in picking it up and asking a few questions. Otherwise, for the rest of us, head over to its official page to stay updated with its cross-country trip.