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Updated: Sun, 27 Jul 2014 15:06:57 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Hitchbot, the hitchhiking robot, bums 1st ride



Anne and Brian Saulnier say they heard about the project on the radio and are thrilled to pick up Hitchbot. CBC

Anne and Brian Saulnier say they heard about the project on the radio and are thrilled to pick up Hitchbot. CBC

It didn't take long for a little robot attempting to hitchhike across the country relying on the kindness of strangers to get its first ride.

The little traveller, about the size of a six-year-old child, was made using pool noodles, an old bucket, Wellington boots, rubber gloves, solar panels and a computerized "brain."

Hitchbot is entirely dependent on human beings for its survival. It's part of a Canadian research project looking into the evolving relationship between people and technology.

The robot set off on Sunday just outside of Halifax and was quickly picked up by a couple heading to Kouchibouguac National Park.

“A lovely couple offered to help me out. Look out, New Brunswick. Here I come,” read the robot’s Instagram page.

Anne and Brian Saulnier say they heard about the project on the radio.

“I was actually just reading about him this morning as we were packing up our trailer for our camping trip. I thought that would be really cool if we actually saw him on the side of the highway, but I thought what are the chances of that,” said Anne.

“And there he was. He’s going on a ride for sure,” said Brian.

The Saulniers say they’ll either leave him at the border or give him to a family to take next.

Hamilton prof examining trust

David Harris Smith, an assistant professor at Hamilton's McMaster University, first came up with the idea of creating a collaborative art project centred around a hitchhiking robot.

He says the Hitchbot is also an experiment that looks at the interaction between people and increasingly ubiquitous technology.

Hitchbot will be powered with solar panels covering the beer cooler bucket that makes up its torso, and can also be recharged from car cigarette lighters or a regular outlet. But if Hitchbot's power runs out when it is waiting for its next ride, written instructions on its body will tell people how to strap it into the car and plug it in, and direct people to a help website.

The researchers expect it to charm its way into enough rides to make it all the way to Victoria.

Hitchbot is also equipped with a GPS and 3G wireless connectivity that will allow it to post frequent updates of its position on the internet.

Along the way the robot will share its more than 6,000-kilometre journey on social media.

Smith admits privacy could be a concern, so they've built privacy settings into Hitchbot. It will ask permission before taking a picture, or ask those in the car to take a selfie with it. There will also be flesh and blood moderators sifting through the data collected.

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