Country

Please choose your default site

Americas

Europe

News

Meet hitchBOT, the Wikipedia-quoting robot that wants to hitchhike across Canada

Credit: hitchBOT/Instagram

Credit: hitchBOT/Instagram


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Monday, June 16, 2014, 1:21 PM - Imagine driving along the TransCanada Highway when you notice a hitchhiker by the side of the road. That's nothing unusual, but this one draws your attention like no other. He's short, looks a bit like a bucket with a cake saver on top, and he's wearing bright red Wellies on his 'feet'. The thumb of his yellow garden glove definitely indicates he's looking for a ride, so what do you do? Do you drive on, or stop for the curious little robot?

This is one of the questions at the heart of an experiment designed by researchers from McMaster University and Ryerson University. They have put together hitchBOT, a robot that will be able to access the collective knowledge of Wikipedia and use it to carry on multiple simultaneous conversations, to see if it will be able to safely hitchhike all the way across Canada.

From hitchBOT's website:


Credit: hitchBOT.me

Credit: hitchBOT.me

According to the researchers, this also comes down to trust.

"Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots … but this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?" said Dr. Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor at Ryerson's School of Professional Communication, according to a press release. "We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada." 

So, while hitchBOT will be able to communicate with the people who ferry it along on its journey - using speech recognition software, along with continuous contact with the internet via 3G and WiFi to interface with Wikipedia, as well as links to social media and reporting its whereabouts - it will really come down to the trust placed in the people that pick it up along the way. 

hitchBOT's adventure begins on July 27, when it will start out on its journey from Halifax, N.S. to Victoria, B.C., posting to its journal, as well as TwitterInstagram and Facebook along the way.

So, if you happen to see this unusual little robot sitting by the side of the road, stop and give it a lift. At the very least you'll have an interesting travel companion, but you'll also be part of a neat little science experiment at the same time.


Google completely pulls the driver from their driverless car, but what ethical can of worms does this open up?
Who's going to drive you home? Google's self-driving car and the 'smart' road
NASA's Opportunity rover may have just broken the off-world driving record

Leave a Comment

What do you think? Join the conversation.
Default saved
Close

Search Location

Close