Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t run with scissors. Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
Those life lessons that were introduced early and pushed as solid advice for years usually serve us well. But one robot — roughly the size of a skinny R2-D2 — may waddle into your hearts and change your preconceived notions about picking up car-less wanderers.
HitchBOT is an anthropomorphic bot that a Canadian professor co-created as a collaborative art project and social experiment, and its goal will be to sweet-talk its way across the Canadian countryside.
“Usually we are concerned whether we can trust robots. But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?” Frauke Zeller, Ryerson University professor and co-creator, said in a statement announcing the project.
HitchBot will be placed on the side of the road near NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and its intended final destination goal is Open Space — a gallery and resource centre in Victoria, British Columbia.
“We expect HitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada,” Zeller said.
But the media attention HitchBOT is getting essentially upsets the “stranger danger” aspect; the bot has already earned a bit of celebrity status among technology fans, and who wouldn’t pick up a famous star on the side of the road, if you knew where they were?
In fact some early fans are already offering the robot a ride, and the hitchhiking experiment won’t even begin until late July.
— Melissa Federer (@_ramblingsahm) June 17, 2014
— Clearpath Robotics (@clearpathrobots) June 12, 2014
Perhaps the real trouble the HitchBOT team will have is making up rules about how long people are allowed to keep the unique traveler in their vehicle, since it seems so many people are already eager to see the bot. Share and share alike, isn’t that another one of those early life lessons? Maybe this entire experiment is all just a ploy to have us each re-examine those kindergarden lessons of our past.
HitchBOT is also equipped with a GPS and 3G wireless connectivity that will allow it to post frequent updates of its position on the Internet, according to CBC:
“HitchBOT will be powered with solar panels covering the beer cooler bucket that makes up its torso, and can also be recharged from car cigarette lighters or a regular outlet. But if HitchBOT’s power runs out as it is waiting for its next ride, written instructions on its body will tell people how to strap it into the car and plug it in, and direct people to a help website.”
The bot has been using Twitter to pitch itself to potential rides and already has more than 1,100 followers. But all the attention could actually mean the bot gets into a bit of trouble with strangers.
— Dan Huber (@mdhuber2) June 17, 2014
Actually, the HitchBot team figured this might happen.
HitchBOT’s other creator, David Harris Smith — a professor of code and design at McMaster University — said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the robot will successfully make its way to Victoria, but just in case, “should HitchBOT go missing, we do have siblings in place to step in.”
Some good life reminders: Don’t steal. Don’t kidnap. More lessons to be learned thanks to HitchBOT along the Canadian highways this summer.
So, would you give this robot wanderer a ride?
(H/T: CTV News)
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter