August 4, 2015
By Diana Hall
HitchBOT is expected to catch a ride back to Canada after the popular hitchhiking robot was dismembered and left in shambles in downtown Philadelphia on the long weekend.
Rhode Island resident Kyle Silva, 24, who had showed the pint-sized robot around his neighbourhood last month as it was starting its trek across America, said a local hitchBOT “super-fan” drove about 440 kilometres to Philadelphia to pick up the robot’s remains and bring them to East Providence.
“He knew the thing was dead. The whole head, everything, was missing. He knew it was doing no good sitting in that area, so he just took it, brought it back,” said Silva on Tuesday.
He said the good Samaritan has been in touch with hitchBOT’s research team about sending what’s left of the robot back to Canada.
“I think now it’s arranged that he’s going to FedEx it back tomorrow,” Silva said. “He said he felt like a mobster with a dead body in the back of his truck.”
HitchBOT’s creators, Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith, were not available for comment Tuesday but an update is expected Wednesday morning.
In the past year HitchBOT had successfully travelled across Canada and Germany with a side trip through the Netherlands. In July, it began what was to be a coast-to-coast journey across the U.S. in Massachusetts. But on the weekend someone apparently torn the robot apart, limb by limb, in Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia’s core, just two weeks into its latest trip.
Silva said the man who picked up the robot’s pieces didn’t want to leave hitchBOT in a state of disrepair on Philadelphia’s streets.
“This guy’s a super-fan of hitchBOT. So, like, we’re willing to do crazy things to move this thing along,” he said.
It is unclear whether the research team will take up an offer by The Hacktory, a Philadelphia-based creative technology company, to help rebuild the robot or what will happen to any money raised in a crowdfunding campaign.
Zeller, of Ryerson University, and Harris, of McMaster University, created hitchBOT to find out if robots and humans could trust one another.