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Travel

Robot tours Germany

A talking robot began its tour of Germany today. Its destinations include the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, Berlin and the North Sea island of Sylt. Last summer the robot hitchhiked 6000 kilometers through Canada.

With millions of fans following its Canadian adventure, "hitchBOT" - as the robot is known - is as experienced as it is famous. And now the famed robot descends on the autobahns of Bavaria near Munich where it will begin its 10 day tour of Germany. The robot will require assistance from the public as it cannot move - and willing motorists will need to lift the eight kilogram creature into their vehicles. hitchBOT is around the size of a six year old child with a barrel-shaped body. His legs are made of floating aides stuck into rubber boots and his head is topped with the lid of a trash can.

His German skills are somewhat rudimentary - but he knows the essentials, such as 'currywurst' and 'feierabend', or 'end of work' - and can talk endlessly about his hobbies, including soccer, hockey, baking and riding.

The objectives for hitchBOT's German sojourn are set: at Neuschwanstein he will take to the throne room and in Cologne he will hitch a ride on the Rose Monday train. Then the Canadian embassy will officially welcome him to Berlin at the city's Brandenburg Gate.

What's the purpose behind the robot's trip? The inventors, David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller, hope to promote human interaction with robots. Florian Röhrbein, a computer scientist at the Technical University of Munich, said that the experiment is of interest for sociological reasons and outcomes, rather than technical. "He can help reduce apprehension." There are still many reservations to using robots, for example in nursing - although they could relieve human staff. Following hitchBOT's tour the inventors will analyze data to determine where the robot was more welcome: Canada or Germany.

ey/jt (dpa, afp)