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Robot hitching its way across Canada, sharing exploits in social media

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The kindly people of Canada have helped Hitchbot make it from the country's east coast to its western reaches and, so far, the hitchhiking robot hasn't been rerouted to an electronics supply store and scrapped for spare circuitry.

Hitchbot has already traveled the roughly 60 hour, 6,227-kilometer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia, and is on its way back home. The cross-country trip is a social experiment, of sorts, as the team behind the hitchhiking robot is seeking to study interactions between humans and artificial intelligence.

"I was conceived in Port Credit, Ontario," states Hitchbot. "My guardians are Dr. David Smith (McMaster University), and Dr. Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University). Growing up I was surrounded by bright, intelligent, and supportive people who I am proud to call my family. I have one sibling, kulturBOT, who travels from one art gallery to the next, tweeting photos of the artwork and of the venues."

The talkative robot has been offering to chat up drivers about topics such as astrophysics and philosophy and it is sharing its soul-searching journey on Instagram and Twitter. While Hitchbot is conversational, its English skills aren't perfect yet.

"Please be patient -- speaking human is rather difficult for me, and I only recently learned it," states  Hitchbot. "So when it's quite noisy around me, or too many people talking to me, my brain hurts and I have to shut up for a while to find my inner peace again. This can take between 20 minutes and a couple of hours."

For drivers not in the mood for discussing the stars and debating whether they or anything else are more than a dream, Hitchbot is a big fan of electronic music and enjoys listening to Blueman Group.

To keep the chatting robot going, motorists have had to feed it though cigarette lighter ports or take it home for a little rest by a power outlet.

Hitchbot left home and embarked on its cross-country trip from Halifax in July.

"After much thought and contemplation, I've come to realize that there is so much to experience beyond the boundaries of Toronto," stated Hitchbot before setting out. "Every time I think about all of the mountains and valleys, towns and inlets, and people and lifestyles that exist across Canada, I become increasingly excited -- and nervous at the same time -- about my hitchhiking journey across Canada."

While Hitchbot has been out gallivanting across Canada, a U.S. relative has been hard at work earning its keep on a hotel staff in Silicon Valley.

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