After successfully traveling around Canada, Germany and The Netherlands, the hitch-hiking robot who relied on the goodwill of strangers to get around met an untimely and brutal demise in Philadelphia.
The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment told The Associated Press that the child-sized robot was damaged “beyond repair” by vandals on Saturday in the city of brotherly love, pulling the plug on the bot’s first American tour.
HitchBOT had kicked off the tour just two weeks before in Massachusetts.
“Sadly, sadly it's come to an end,” Frauke Zeller, one of the robot’s co-creators, told the AP.
This is how far hitchBOT managed to travel before it was destroyed:
According to Canadian journalist Lauren O’Neil, hitchBOT was found with its head and arms ripped off.
“We decided not to publish it,” Zeller told Buzzfeed Canada of the image. “It’s upsetting -- you can see how it has been taken apart and left in the street.”
HitchBOT is an entirely helpless, but talkative, traveling companion. The immobile bot “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,” per the AP.
Earlier this year, hitchBOT successfully traveled around The Netherlands and Germany.
In 2014, the robot crossed more than 3,700 miles in Canada without incident.
Last August, Zeller explained the premise of the hitchBOT experiment to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots,” Zeller said. “This project asks: can robots trust human beings?”
As netizens mourn the sudden demise of hitchBOT this week, faith in humanity has certainly taken a hit.
Before it was vandalized, hitchBOT was sadly unable to fulfill most of the items on its American bucket list, which included seeing the lights of Times Square and visiting Las Vegas.
The bot was treated to some American hospitality, however. According to the AP, hitchBOT managed to take in a Red Sox game and was “briefly taken to sea.”
It’s unclear if the robot will attempt to travel across the U.S. again, but its creators have insisted that they won’t be letting one bad experience put a stopper on the entire experiment.
“Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,” says a message on the bot’s website. “We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over.”
On Sunday, hitchBOT shared a message with its fans:
It seems we humans could learn a thing or two from the little fellow.
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