Vandals Destroy Hitchhiking Robot

Thanks, City of Brotherly Love
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 2, 2015 5:41 AM CDT
Vandals Destroy Hitchhiking Robot
In this July 17, 2015, file photo, a car drives by HitchBOT in Marblehead, Mass. The researchers who created hitchBOT say someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair on Saturday, Aug. 1.   (Stephan Savoia)

A hitchhiking robot that captured the hearts of fans worldwide met its demise in the US. The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment told the AP that someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair yesterday, ending its first American tour after about two weeks. The kid-size robot set out to travel cross-country after successfully hitchhiking across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe. It is immobile on its own, and so it gets from place to place by relying on the kindness of strangers. It started in Marblehead, Mass., on July 17 with its thumb raised skyward, a grin on its digital face and tape wrapped around its cylindrical head that read "San Francisco or bust."

It bounced around the Boston area and was briefly taken to sea. One day, it took in a Red Sox game. But hitchBOT never made it off the East Coast. The creators were sent an image of the vandalized robot yesterday but cannot track its location because the battery is dead. They said they don't know who destroyed it or why. But co-creator Frauke Zeller said many children who adored the robot are now heartbroken. HitchBOT was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels. During past travels, the robot attended a comic convention and a wedding, and it had its portrait painted in the Netherlands. It once spent a week with a heavy metal band. (More hitchhiking stories.)

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