July 17 marked hitchBOT’s first day of travel, departing its starting point at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Over the course of days, weeks, or perhaps even months, the lovable hitchhiking robot will make its way westward, ending its journey at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
A little apprehensive about letting a strange robot into the front seat of your car? Don’t worry. The hitchBOT is essentially a bucket with pool noodle arms and Wellington boots. It carries only a GPS, camera, and of course its digital brain, which can allow hitchBOT to communicate and hold conversations with its traveling companions.
The hitchBOT project began in the minds of Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Dr. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University, who wanted to investigate how robots and humans interact. More specifically, could robots trust humans? Considering hitchBOT successfully made its way across Canada, through Germany, and The Netherlands last year…that appears to be a “yes.”
Even if you don’t see hitchBOT waiting on the side of the road this summer, you can still be part of the project. hitchBOT’s progress can be tracked live on its website, and you can even suggest tourist stops hitchBOT should visit by using the hashtag “#hitchBOTinUSA” on social media.