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HitchBOT - Hitch-hiking Robot Meets Untimely End in Philadelphia

The Independent

What you see above was the final active Tweet posted by 'HitchBOT', the much loved hitch-hiking robot which had, up until last week, been working his way across the world by grace of the kindness of strangers. The immobile droid moved around by simply sitting at the side of the road and politely asking passers by to carry or drive him as far as they were able, regaling them with interesting pre-recorded anecdotes across the way. Last summer he spent a month travelling across Canada, amassing over 45,000 followers on Twitter and over 20,000 on Instagram.


During the voyage an onboard camera snapped photos every 20 minutes and followers were kept up to date on his movements via a GPS tracker. He attended a wedding, logged some time with a heavy metal band and during a brief jaunt to Europe, had his portrait painted. His ridiculously adorable appearance and friendly attitude also made him really popular with kids. The whole initiative was meant as a sort of social experiment about the brighter side of human nature. Which makes what happened next all the more depressing.
2 weeks ago he embarked upon what should have been an epic voyage across the USA. He started in Boston, attending a baseball game at Fenway Park just days after setting off. He had aimed to move all the way across to San Francisco, but on Saturday, just outside Philadelphia, he was beset by vandals and decapitated. The body was left dumped at the scene of the crime, but the head (which contains the location-transmitting battery and memory data) was taken. It remains missing, presumed sad.
Press images of HitchBOT's wrecked remains have cropped up on a few news sites but creator Frauke Zeller has refrained from posting them on any of the bot's social media accounts for fear of further upsetting his younger fans. Zeller and the rest of the team have encouraged fans to focus on the positive aspects of the experiment, rather than its abrupt conclusion. It's difficult to say whether or not the head will ever be found, since the police don't really cater to roboticide.

Those who have homed in on the more unpleasant side of things have decried act of vandalism as a shameful commentary on American culture, given that HitchBOT made his way across Canada and a sizeable chunk of continental Europe completely unscathed. It's fair to say that he could have easily met the same fate in either one of those places and any outrage should really be directed entirely at the people who wrecked him, not the city of Philadelphia and not America at large, but social media rage snowballs conform to no such logic. Farewell HitchBOT, this world was not meant for one as beautiful as you.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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HitchBOT - Hitch-hiking Robot Meets Untimely End in Philadelphia Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, August 03, 2015 Rating: 5

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