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Hitchhiking robot wrecked in Philadelphia

August 2, 2015

Hitchhiking robot hitchBOT, created by researchers in Canada, has been damaged beyond repair, ending its first American tour. The robot had previously traveled safely across Canada and parts of Europe.

26.02.2015 DW PROJEKT ZUKUNFT Hitchbot
Image: DW

Meet HitchBOT - the hitchhiking robot

After just two weeks on the road in the USA, the 1.2-meter-tall (4-feet-tall) robot named hitchBOT was vandalized beyond repair on Saturday.

The creators, Canadian researchers at Ryerson University in Toronto Ontaria, were sent an image of the ruined robot, but they were unable to track hitchBOT, as its battery had died.

HitchBOT was designed as a social experiment: a talking travel companion that could recite factoids and engage in limited conversation.

The robot's end was announced on the researchers' website: "Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!"

The robot started its latest journey in Massachusetts on July 17 with a tape wrapped around its head with the stated aim: "San Francisco or bust." But after two weeks and visits to Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead and New York City, hitchBOT was in pieces.

HitchBOT had successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year. During its previous hikes, it had attended a comic convention and a wedding. Its portrait was painted in the Netherlands, and it visited Munich during its European tour. It spent a week with a heavy metal band, went to a baseball match and made a short sea trip.

The researchers said on their website that their experiment was not over. They say they intend to focus on what can be learned from the episode. Co-creator Frauke Zeller said many children who adored the robot were now "heartbroken."

jm/gsw (AP, dpa)