Thursday, August 7, 2014

Social Experiment: Robot hitchhikes through Canada – Handelsblatt

The currently most popular passenger in Canada is a robot. His name is hitchBot and is from swimming noodles, a cake dome, a bucket and rubber boots crafted. His goal: 6,000 km once across hitchhike across the country. End of July continued its inventor, two scientists, the robot males in Halifax on the Atlantic coast from the roadside. The stretched upwards thumb of his right rubber glove-hand signaled: “Take me with you”

“Normally we deal with whether we can trust robots” says Frauke Zeller. The German works at Ryerson University in Toronto and hitchBot helped develop. Hollywood films such as “Terminator” and “Matrix” showed machines often as enemies of the people. In hitchBot that was completely different. “This project represents our fear of technology on its head and asks ‘Can robots people trust?’” Says the researcher. After the first few days traveling hitchBot can clearly answer this question in the affirmative. The first involved older couple in their motor home with the robot. After a night in the Canadian wilderness, the couple handed over his charge to three young men from Quebec.

From learning machines and self-propelled fork-lift trucks: the possibilities are endless

Since then had hitchBot never wait long for a ride.. This is partly due to its enormous popularity. Tens of thousands follow the journey of the male robot now on Twitter, or visit his website On the other hitchBot is a charming fellow. LED lights show under the hood helmet cake a wide grin and thanks to the built-in computer hitchBot can entertain his passengers with Smalltalk. If his battery is flat it asks to be connected to the cigarette lighter.

Although it looks as though children tinkered him, the researchers tinkered long in the construction of hitchBot. “He had to be robust but at the same time appealing,” says Zeller. “People should think ‘Yes, I have to stop and help this robot’.” For hitchBot could not be too heavy, so it can be worn in his car seat into the car. But not too easy, otherwise a gust of wind could blow him.

So far, the robot seems to have the trip unscathed hitchhiking, like the many travel pictures in prove Internet. And the scientists are satisfied with the experiment. “Everyone wants to support him,” says Zeller. “This is an interesting phenomenon: people develop a relationship with the robot, even those who hitchBot never meet, but follow him only in social media.”

If hitchBot has arrived on Canada’s west coast, wants the team of scientists all comments on Twitter and Facebook to evaluate and draw conclusions on the relationship between man and machine. The little robot in any case is treated very humanely. “Where are you now, hitchBot? We would like to take you a bit, “tweeted example, Susan Dennie from Ontario. Of so much sympathy, people who are on the road hitchhiking only dream of.


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