Can a hitchhiking robot make its way across Canada?
Corinne Ton That, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, June 15, 2014 5:14PM EDT
If you see a hitchhiking robot on the side of the road this summer, don’t be alarmed. It’s just trying to make its way across the country, one ride at a time.
Starting in late July, the anthropomorphic bot -- aptly named hitchBOT -- will be placed on the side of the road near NSCAD University in Halifax as it attempts to sweet-talk its way to the other end of the country.
The goal is for hitchBOT to reach Open Space -- a gallery and resource centre in Victoria, B.C.
Frauke Zeller, a professor at Ryerson University and co-creator of hitchBOT, said the robot is both a collaborative art project and social experiment.
“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?” Zeller said in a statement, announcing the project.
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.
“I think from the media and public response so far, there’s a lot of good will in this project,” Smith told CTV News Channel. “But should hitchBOT go missing, we do have siblings in place to step in.”
Other than its one hitchhiking arm, hitchBOT won’t be able to move on its own. And the rain boot-clad, gardening glove-wearing, bucket-shaped robot will look like a “garage sale of parts coming together,” Smith said.
But it while it won’t have great mobility, hitchBOT will come equipped with a microphone and camera that will allow it to detect motion and speech. It will also be able to answer questions, crafting answers based on a Wikipedia database and conversational dialogue models.
“We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada,” Zeller said.