(Update: Unfortunately, the hitchhiking robot has been irreparably damaged by vandals in Philadelphia. More in this later post.)
In an interesting social experiment (described in an Associated Press report by Collin Binkley), a couple of Canadian researchers have launched a hitchhiking robot on a trip across the U.S. from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to San Francisco. (There’s also an article in The Week.)
The project was created by Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University in Toronto and David Harris Smith of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Both are professors of communication. The robot, which has a deliberately cheap “yard sale” look and is about the size of a child, is equipped with GPS and can carry on a limited conversation. It randomly takes pictures every 20 minutes or so, but they aren’t posted to social media unless the people currently hosting the robot give their permission.
The robot has already traveled across Europe and Canada, the latter trip taking 26 days. People transporting it have taken it to weddings and comic book convention, and many have posted selfies.
It began its latest journey being left by the side of the road in a hitchhiking pose in Marblehead, and it was soon picked up by German tourists in an SUV. You can follow its adventures on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and on this website.