Quoted: Thumbs down: Hitchhiking robot destroyed in Philadelphia

“I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade.”

hitchBOT, the Canadian hitchhiking robot that had planned a cross-country trip across the United States, in an Aug. 1 tweet about its demise. Sporting a “San Francisco or bust” sticker on its head, the robot began its trip in Boston two weeks ago and was in the City Of Brotherly Love when it lost its head — literally. Its creators say it was “vandalized overnight in Philadelphia”; a photo on Twitter showed the robot with its head and arms ripped off.

The robot was created by researchers from Ryerson and McMaster universities in Ontario, and had survived trips in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, according to its website. Its U.S. bucket list included “Do a wave at a sports game, Anywhere,” which it checked off July 24 when it got into a baseball game at Fenway Park. But it won’t get to many of the items on the list, including “Vegas!” and “Take a selfie with the Hollywood sign, California.” It hoped to rely on the kindness of human strangers to make its way across America, with its fans following along on social media.

The robot — bless its heart — reportedly was made from odds and ends, could talk and listen, and derived its knowledge from Wikipedia. Its “family” says on its website that “this great experiment is not over” despite its destruction.

In June, hitchBOT’s creators told the Atlantic: “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots, e.g. as helpers in our homes. But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?”

Guess we got that answer.


Photo: A car drives by hitchBOT in Marblehead, Mass., on July 17, 2015. The Canadian researchers who created the robot as a social experiment say someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair on Saturday, Aug. 1, ending its planned U.S. cross-country trip. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)


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