hitchBOT, prior to its USA trip

hitchBOT, a Canadian, hitchhiking robot, awaits its ill-fated adventure in the U.S. He was tragically beheaded in Philly after safely navigating countries in Europe. His trip to the United States lasted only two weeks. Credit: @hitchbot/Instagram

It didn’t matter how long it took, hitchBOT only wanted to cross the United States by hitchhiking. It had a bucket list, which included visiting Millennium Park in Chicago, Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. hitchBOT was Canadian, by the way.

But hitchBOT, after successfully navigating Canada from coast to coast, and cruising castles and landmarks in Germany and the Netherlands, spent only two weeks in the United States before its smiling “face,” head and arms were removed┬áby unknown human assailants in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To be fair, it only traveled for 10 days in Germany, but the caveat is that the Germans were rather nice to it.

hitchBOT was a great New Aesthetic experiment: simple AI; an illuminated, smiling face; human-like appendages; and a hitchhiking narrative that was broadcast online formed a fun way to “see” different people and the world around it and us.

What rights do hitchhiking robots have? Rather, what rights do the creators have after having their free-roaming property vandalized? And why do we find the concept of a hitchhiking robot fascinating (well, some of us), and the “death” of a smiling face so depressing? Is it the smile, the mission, the human characteristics or all of the above?

Regardless, the robot gave a smiling face to an otherwise shadowy world of hitchhiking and modern re-exploration, which makes the demise of hitchBOT seem a little too … human.

Tweeted photo of vandalized hitchBOT

Journalist Lauren O’Neil tweeted this photo of hitchBOT after its demise.

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