He’s dead, and nothing more than a mutilated heap of his former loving self. In an instant, HitchBOT’s life came to an end, destroyed by a nonsocial human being — not wired for compassion.
According to CNET, the fun and loving crude robot creation managed to traverse Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany before its quest to make friends and spread love came to an end — in Philadelphia, of all places. HitchBOT was equipped with audio capability, GPS, 3G, and video. However, it depended on a lift to get around the country.
On Saturday, Canadian journalist Lauren O’Neil posted an image of the disembodied robot lying in the streets like a pile of trash. Its destroyed arms were torn off, and its head was missing. It seems Americans don’t fancy R2D2-like creations, and “trust” only human counterparts.
— Lauren O’Neil (@laurenonizzle) August 2, 2015
When HitchBOT’s creators, David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller, set the mission in motion, they planned to traverse Canada. They compared the project to NASA’s Mars mission with the Exploration Rovers. However, instead of the expensive machinery and leading technology housed in a Rover, HitchBOT was simply a “little talking robot with a plastic-pail torso and foam pool-noodle arms.”
Smith is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. Zeller is a professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. The pair hatched the idea as part of a school project, which was aimed at studying the interaction of people with smart technologies. Thus, HitchBOT was created, as they explained to Crave.
“We want to take the question that is normally asked — if we can and should trust robots — the other way around and ask: can robots trust human beings? We believe that through this artwork we can learn a lot also in terms of social robotics, how we approach robots (in non-restricted, non-observed environments), and whether we interact with them, and if yes, how.”
Back in June of last year, CNET made an entry within a post that — looking back — foreshadowed HitchBOT’s destructive end at the hands of the creature it’s designed to bring closer — Man.
“At least two studies have suggested that humans are hardwired to sympathize with robots — and the HitchBOT team hopes the little fella will charm its way safely from coast to coast. Still, there’s always a chance HitchBOT could find itself in the passenger seat of someone who wants to dent its garbage can hat or, worse yet, harvest its components and toss it on a scrap heap.”
So, what’s next for the roving robot? Will the creators give it a go again? The larger question remains: Will the brotherly love the project hopes to leave in its wake ever happen in “these United States of America?”
Although HitchBOT was destroyed, he let bygones be bygones and showed a part of the humanity ideal. He posted a moving message on his website that left a glimmer of hope that he — in the spirit of the Terminator — will be back.
“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.”