Mama always said never hitchhike. Poor Mr. HitchBOT just found out why the hard way.
The talking, tweeting, wellington-wearing robot’s carefree days of roaming wild and free on the kindness of strangers have come to a tragic end. It was found beheaded and dismembered (warning: graphic image) on August 1. It was only two years old.
HitchBOT, valued somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000 but priceless to many, was so much more than a plucky pile of junk on the side of the road, even if it looked like a glorified wastebin pimped-out with gangly foam noodle arms and legs. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, the solar-powered cyborg was on an innocent, coast-to-coast quest to see if robots can trust humans. Its historic journey took him across Canada, the Netherlands and Germany, and finally to the hard, mean streets of the U.S. of A.
Unable to move on its own -- or to even stick a single thumb up to bum a ride like reckless humans do -- HitchBOT relied merely on its good looks and charm to get from place to place. Curious souls simply spotted its awkwardly adorable form propped up on the side of the road. They picked the genderless doodad up, seat-belted it into their cars and trucks and traversed the miles with it as their wingman.
Many friendships were forged along the way and HitchBOT, no stranger to social media, boasted countless group selfies on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to prove it. The anthropomorphic bot was apparently a hell of a guy...er, thing, robot, whatever.
Continuing on its merry way, the wannabe R2-D2 shined up a brand new pair of wellies and, by the dawn’s early light, kicked off its adventures in the land of of the free and the home of the brave. With hope in its circuits and wanderlust in its Arduino platform, the artificially intelligent automaton began its American travels in Salem, Mass., on July 17.
Some of the highlights on the plastic bucket’s bucket list were to bask in the bright lights of Times Square, chill to jazz music in New Orleans, be sleepless in Seattle and do the wave at a sports game. Unfortunately it checked off zero of those goals, trekking only as far as Philadelphia, where its rubber gloves fatally met the road.
There, ironically in the City of Brotherly Love, HitchBOT, a firm believer in blind trust, arrived at its untimely end on the heels a raucous night out with a freewheeling pair of YouTube stars. Its violently vandalized remains were discovered on August 1, carelessly strewn on the ground like the pile of ramshackle robot parts it was.
The outgoing, charismatic bot’s final words were posthumously posted later that fateful day on its Facebook page. They read: “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! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thank you to all my friends.”
So long and fare thee well, dear HitchBOT. May you rest in pieces. That is, until you are possibly put back together and on the road again.
HitchBOT is survived by his parents, creators Dr. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University and Dr. David Smith of McMaster University, and his lone sibling, kulturBOT. For what it’s worth, HitchBOT once quipped that its sib bot, a poet who tweets art reviews from Canadian galleries far and wide, “is definitely not as good-looking or well-rounded as I am.” At least it’s still rolling.