The Murder of hitchBOT

On August 1st, 2015 the friendly hitchhiking robot known as hitchBOT was destroyed on a Philadelphia street. The robot's attacker remains a mystery, and his owners have declined to press charges, but I can't help but feel sadness at this wonton act of senseless destruction.

hitchBOT was the child of David Harris Smith (of McMaster University) and Frauke Zeller (of Ryerson University), and could interact with friendly humans who picked it up and drove it along the way to its requested destination like a real hitchhiker. hitchBOT was designed to answer the question of whether or not an innocent robot could trust humans, and was capable of a set of responses including requests like keeping the radio in the car low. hitchBOT was once taken to a wedding where it interrupted the bridal party's speeches with an "I like making friends" announcement (one of its trigger words was said in the speech).

hitchBOT made it safely across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands in years passed before attempting to hitchhike from Salem, Massachusettes to San Fransisco, California. It saw Boston and New York's Times' Square before meeting a grizzly end on a Philadelphia street corner, being stomped into pieces by a man I can only assume is a total asshole devoid of human dignity.

I'm not kidding when I say I'm saddened that I will never have the chance to interact with hitchBOT. I'm also ashamed that it was an American that failed the altruism test he was designed to give. I really wish Doctors Smith and Zeller would have the culprit hunted down and arrested. He deprived us of something really special.

The security video of hitchBOT's demise is here. It was hard for me to watch, just warning you ahead of time.

If you'd like to know more about hitchBOT then please visit his website.


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