A hitchhiking robot has set out for a journey across Canada on Sunday, aiming to get from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
Starting his journey in Halifax, the robot is part of a social experiment testing whether drivers would pick him up and deliver in one piece over 6000km to an art gallery in Victoria.
“Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?” said Frauke Zeller, from the Ryerson University in Canada, one of the projects’ authors.
Named hitchBOT, the robot can engage in conversation on various topics with the drivers and share moments from his journey with followers on social media. He can chat particularly well about its creation and personal history and also give information about his family.
“We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides across Canada,” said David Harris Smith, from the McMaster University, co-author of the project.
“hitchBOT will have to rely on people to get around, including being strapped into a car seat belt.”
The robot’s trip across Canada will provide the researchers with a unique opportunity to study human-robot interaction and test artificial intelligence and speech recognition technologies.
There is no set time limit for the robot to complete the journey and the researchers hope people will treat him kindly. However, in case it gets lost along the way, it is equipped with GPS and a 3G wireless connection to allow the robot to be located.