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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Beloved robot hitchhikes around the world, gets destroyed after two weeks in America


Hitchhiking Robot Source: Associated Press

A HITCHHIKING ROBOT that captured the hearts of fans worldwide, and survived a week with a heavy metal band, has met a violent end, shortly after arriving in the U.S.

The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment announced on their website that someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair over the weekend, ending its first American tour after just two weeks.

Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots.

hitchBOT itself tweeted:

The child-size robot set out to travel cross-country after successfully hitchhiking across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe.

During past travels, the robot attended a comic convention and a wedding, and it had its portrait painted in the Netherlands. It once even spent a week with a heavy metal band.

It’s immobile on its own, relying on the kindness of strangers. Those who picked it up often passed it to other travelers or left it where others might notice it.

It started in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on 17 July with its thumb raised skyward, a grin on its digital face and tape wrapped around its cylindrical head that read “San Francisco or bust.”

The robot bounced around the Boston area and took in a Red Sox game, checking off one of the items on the bucket list created for it.

Hitchhiking Robot Red Sox Baseball Source: Associated Press

But hitchBOT never made it off the East Coast.

The creators were sent this image of the vandalized robot on Saturday but couldn’t track its exact location because the battery is dead.

They said they don’t know who destroyed it or why.

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hitchBOT was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation.

A GPS tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels.

Hitchhiking Robot Source: Associated Press

With the robot destroyed, co-creator Frauke Zeller said, she was most concerned about children who loved hitchBOT and followed it on social media.

I hope that people won’t be too disappointed, too sad.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

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Dan MacGuill

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