HitchBot makes it to BC

VICTORIA, British Columbia — The chatty, social-media-savvy robot that’s been thumbing rides across Canada over the past two months has completed his trip from Nova Scotia to British Columbia on August 17 — and no one tried to steal him.

Many thought he wouldn't make it. The innocent robot, they said, would end up being sold as scrap within days. But HitchBOT has surprised the world by completing his journey from Nova Scotia to British Columbia after hitchhiking 3,700 miles on the open road.

It made stops to fish and camp, attended a rock concert and a wedding and even made an appearance at an aboriginal pow wow.

HitchBOT is 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. The robot is also programmed to recognize speech and has text-to-speech software installed. It listens for keywords and tries to respond appropriately. HitchBOT is also equipped with GPS and 3G wireless connectivity that allows it to post updates of its position on the internet.

The well-travelled robot, about the size of a six-year-old child, was made using foam pool noodles for arms, an old beer cooler bucket for its torso, Wellington boots, rubber gloves, solar panels and a computerized “brain.”

Equipped with GPS, 3G wireless connectivity, a camera, the HitchBOT was also be able to monitor its progress across Canada.

Perhaps most fascinating is the fact HitchBOT has made it all the way to British Columbia, depending on the kindness of strangers to get it safely to its destination.

HitchBOT left Halifax in late July, thumbing rides until it arrived in Victoria earlier in August. GPS technology tracked its progress on the robot's website and Facebook page which built up more than 48,000 followers.

HitchBOT's creators say it received at least 18 different rides as complete strangers took on the responsibility of transporting the robot closer to its destination.

When the robot arrived in Victoria, its mechanical arm was broken and there was a crack on the plastic cake holder that formed its head, but it was otherwise in good shape.         

The robot's body is now covered in hand-written messages from its fellow travelers, as well as pins and other trinkets it collected along the way.

What comes next for HitchBOT, Zaller and Smith say, depends on funding, among other factors. The robot, which took a full-time team around four months to build, has been invited by other countries to hitchhike across their lands, and will attend a Silicon Valley ideas conference with its creators in September.

Posted 12:51 PM

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