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Little robot, big journey: would you pick up a hitchhiking robot?

HitchBot stopped in to visit its
HitchBot stopped in to visit its "family" in Toronto this morning, decked out in souvenirs from travelers it has met along the way.
Courtesy hitchBot

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Last week, hitchhiking robot, hitchBot departed on a trip across Canada, relying on the kindness of strangers. The little robot has its thumb permanently out, asking for a ride, and has so far met and made conversation with an interesting collection of drivers and passengers. So far, hitchBot has traveled a winding route from Nova Scotia to Montreal.

Armed with a programmed vocabulary and a pair of sturdy rainboots to protect itself against the weather, hitchBot tells those who pick it up for a ride its story and mission. Humans are increasingly connected to technology -- already there are stories about people who name their Roombas and soldiers who grow attached to bomb-detecting robots -- a cute robot in rainboots is unlikely to raise alarm, but the project does bring up questions of human-machine trust.

Can humans can trust robots as technology becomes “smarter” and more autonomous? Can robots “trust” humans? Will hitchBot make it all the way across Canada?


David Harris Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at McMaster University, co-creator of hitchBot