Turn on the news or search the Internet these days, and the stories you come across can be pretty depressing. There is a lot of chaos in the world today and while I appreciate the reporters who keep me informed, their pieces can also be a little overwhelming. To be sure, there is some good stuff out there too, but it can easily get lost in the noise.
In an effort to combat some of this negativity, and to remind both you and myself that there are some genuinely feel-good stories out there, I bring you hitchBOT, the child-sized robot that hitchhiked 4,000 miles across Canada in about three weeks.
A collaborative project between professors at three different Canadian universities, hitchBOT was brought to life “to explore topics in human-robot-interaction and to test technologies in artificial intelligence and speech recognition and processing,” according to a press release ahead of its country-wide adventure.
As Dr. Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University, noted: “Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?”
The answer seems to be a definitive yes… well, as long as the robots are made out of cylindrical beer coolers, inverted cake keepers, rubber gloves, and blue foam pool noodle extremities. Tens of thousands of people (including yours truly) followed hitchBOT’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and according to the Los Angeles Times, dozens of people picked up the tiny robot when they saw it along the side of the road and got it from one place to the other, with tons of adventures along the way. It really was fun to see and I am so jealous that I wasn’t in Canada to see the little guy (or girl, there has been a debate) myself!
Though it is likely too soon to know what kind of impact hitchBOT will have on the way we view robots, I hope this isn’t the last we see of these kinds of projects.