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Hitchhiking robot begins journey across U.S.

HitchBOT is a hitchhiking robot that has already traveled across Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

By Marilyn Malara
Hitchhiking robot begins journey across U.S.
HitchBot's "bucket list" for his American adventure includes Times Square, Millennium Park, Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon. Photo by hitchbot/Instagram

BOSTON, July 18 (UPI) -- Canada's first hitchhiking robot began its journey across the U.S. Friday and has already landed its first ride.

HitchBOT, a bucket-shaped robot from Ontario, is an art project with a social twist, existing to test the trustworthiness of human strangers on its journey. The bot has a personality of its own, and even a "bucket list" of American hot spots it hopes to visit.

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Having started its trip at the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston, the well-traveled bot is expected to rely on helpful strangers to make its way to the Exploratorium San Francisco museum fully intact, and with plenty of stories to tell via social media.

"This trip will be unlike any other," said co-creator Dr. David Harris of hitchBOT, which has already explored Canada, Germany and the Netherlands thanks to helpful humans. "HitchBOT's goal is not only to hitchhike across the U.S., but also to visit a number of historic sites and monuments."

A full American bucket list was posted on its official Twitter page last week; popular destinations listed are Times Square, Disney World, Mt. Rushmore and the Hollywood sign.

"Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots," Dr. Frauke Zeller, hitchBOT's other co-creator said in a statement. "But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?"

Taking on a life -- and voice -- of its own, hitchBOT is about 3 feet tall and weighs about 25 pounds. It sees the world using "camera vision" and communicates using a microphone and speaker system. Being sociable, the little bot converses with humans using Cleverscript speech technology, allowing it to answer simple questions about its favorite hobbies or where its from. HitchBOT also uses a GPS to sense where it is, and communicates where it wants to go next.

"HitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands," Zeller said, "proving that robots can indeed trust humans."

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"Given that hitchBOT is built out of a bucket, we thought it would be only natural if we let it have a bucket list for this exciting new adventure."

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