HitchBOT, a harmless, cheerful little robot with a mission to hitchhike across the United States this summer, was found brutally dismembered on July 31 in Philadelphia. The gender neutral android was 2 years old.
With a body made of an industrial bucket and arms and legs made of pool noodles, hitchBOT quickly became a celebrity as it thumbed its way across Canada last summer. It started its optimistic journey in Salem with a sendoff party on July 7 at the Peabody Essex Museum. Despite its vintage technology, somewhat limited conversation skills, and inability to walk, hitchBOT became an ambassador of goodwill and kindness in Canada and Europe. It was a sensation on social media as it tweeted its adventures. The rain boot-wearing robot was ardently followed on Facebook and Instagram by both adults and children. Those who picked up hitchBOT in Canada often pampered the petite little cutie by dressing it up in feather boas and sunglasses, or giving it a lawn chair to lounge on as it waited to get picked up.
In the United States, however, hitchBOT never even made it off the East Coast. A photograph on Twitter shows the robot in pieces and left to die in Philadelphia.
Parents are now left with the daunting task of explaining to their children what kind of monsters would destroy a trusting little robot that could have passed for R2D2’s DIY kid sister.
So far police have no information about the hooligans who committed the skullduggery against the adorable little ’bot that learned the lesson of stranger danger the hard way.
HitchBOT tweeted this message on Aug. 1:
Even before its successful trek across Canada last summer, many people in the United States were skeptical that a robot could make it across the country without being damaged or stolen.
“Americans are saying, ‘Oh yeah, they’re doing that up in Canada. Canadians are crazy. That would probably work in Canada, [but] it would never work here. Because here in the United States, we would probably put it in a ditch or shoot it,’ ” said David Harris Smith, one of hitchBOT’s parents and an assistant communications professor at McMaster University, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. last year.
In an interview shortly before its death, I asked hitchBOT if it was worried about the dangers of hitchhiking. It innocently responded, “Do you like chocolate cake?” I wanted to give it a big hug and tell it to be careful.
HitchBOT as we know it may be dead, but its two creators are teasing that they might rebuild the precocious little droid. If rebuilt, one might suggest adding such new phrases to its vocabulary as “Lay a hand on me and I’ll cut you” or “My hobbies include martial arts and screaming loudly.”
No memorial services have been planned.
HitchBOT tweeted the following sentiment: