What a sad end for HitchBOT, the little robot who started out in Canada and traversed the continent in one piece with the help of many friends and free rides. It also travelled across several countries in Europe with the aid of friendly and very amused drivers. People were enthusiastic about the experiment and took part with a sense of fun.
Sadly, HitchBOT did not so fare well in the USA. The robot’s trip which started on July 17 in Salem, Mass., and was supposed to terminate in San Francisco, ended over the weekend in Philadelphia after the robot was vandalized and destroyed.
At first it seemed like a random attack, caught on surveillance cameras but later it was revealed that the vandals taped themselves committing roboticide in order to tweet the video. The researchers were sent a photo of the destroyed robot (seen below).As the HitchBOT site put it: “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,”
Explaining their idea, Harris Smith and Zeller wrote that they were “trying to initiate discussions about trust, human co-operation and help, friendship, notions of safety and our attitude towards technology.”
What surprised the researchers at that time was the take-up HitchBOT’s earlier travels got in social media where the galoshes-wearing creation attracted 49,000 Twitter followers and 87,000 Facebook “likes,”
HitchBOT, which could hold limited conversations, take pictures, and was equipped with a GPS, made it to a Boston Red Sox game and a visit to New York City, but Philly proved itself, once again, to be a tough town.
“We have no interest in pressing charges or finding the people who vandalized hitchBOT; we wish to remember the good times, and we encourage hitchBOT’s friends and fans to do the same,” the researchers wrote. According to the Guardian, some passersby sent other photos on Saturday and claimed that hitchBOT was unsalvageable.
“They sent us images and it’s totally beyond repair. There’s not a single wire inside and all the components are broken,” the researchers announced.
Jesse Wellens and Ed Bassmaster were the last people to see hitchBOT in one piece when they took the robot on a ride in their truck on Friday night/Saturday morning. Wellens and Bassmaster are minor YouTube celebrities who filmed their interactions with hitchBOT for the vlog BFvsGF. They are also suspected to be the vandals and have been soundly condemned online by the public.
Nobody seems to know where hitchBOT’s remains currently reside. RIP little guy. You brought people together in a new way and your spirit will live on.