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  1. ITV Report

Hitchhiking robot journeys across Canada

Hitchbot is making his way across Canada. Photo: hitchBOT

A small robot made from pool toys is hitchhiking its way from coast to coast across Canada, with only its charm to secure rides.

'hitchBOT' is "A trivia-loving, wellington-wearing, tweeting robot" which has been designed to explore topics in human-robot-interaction and to test technologies in artificial intelligence and speech recognition.

Developed as a sociable robot, hitchBOT’s creators are encouraging drivers to pick up the friendly stranger, if they see it on the roadside this summer.

hitchBOT's trip so far. Credit: Google Maps/ hitchBOT

hitchBOT can interact with those who decide to give him a lift. It can talk about trivia and about itself and can answer questions about its journey so far. It has access to Wikipedia so is able to have conversations on more topics.

hitchBOT with some of the people who have helped him on his way so far. Credit: hitchBOT

It is not clear how long it will take the solar-powered robot to make the 4,500 km (2,800 mile) journey from Nova Scotia on the east coast to British Columbia on the west coast. But it is already making good progress having travelled almost halfway since setting off last month.

hitchBOT is a project led by a communication, multimedia, and mechatronics across three Canadian universities. It is hoped the machine will make it across without running into any danger, however if not it will still form part of the experiment.

Usually, we are concerned with whether we can trust robots. This project asks: can robots trust human beings?

– Dr Frauke Zeller
hitchBOT with some of the people who have helped him on his way so far. Credit: hitchBOT

hitchBOT will have to rely on people to get around, including being strapped into a car seat belt.

We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides across Canada.

– Dr David Harris Smith