A group of researchers has set out a child-sized hitchhiking robot for a trip across Canada and some parts of Europe in 2014 with the objective of knowing whether or not robots could trust humans and vice versa.
Although there were concerns that the robot named hitchBOT would be destroyed or kidnapped during its solo journey, it was able to reach the West Coast relatively undamaged.
The robot, which was designed as a talking travel companion, could not move by itself. It could only move its arms and fingers so it depended on the goodwill of people. It was able to accomplish its unaccompanied trek though because of the kindness of strangers who gave rides and even lodging.
The robot eventually became a social media sensation after dozens of people started sharing their photos online while giving hitchBOT a ride or a tour of their area.
After its successful journey across its native Canada and Europe, hitchBOT set out on July 17 to road trip across the U.S. through the kindness of strangers. Since its departure, it has visited Boston, Gloucester, Salem, New York City and Marblehead. Unfortunately, it met a tragic incident while passing through the
city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.
HitchBOT has a feature that makes it automatically take a photo every 20 minutes, the purpose of which is to document its travels. On Saturday night, its creators received a photo of the smashed-up machine.
A photo that circulated on Twitter showed that hitchBOT was dismembered with its blue foam arms detached from its body. The creators said that they do not know who destroyed it and they can neither track the exact location of the robot at the moments since its battery is dead.
A resident at Elfreth's Alley, where the robot was dropped by Jesse Wellens before 5 a.m on Saturday, suspect that the robot was disassembled by scappers for possible hardware.
In a statement, the Canada-based makers of the machine said that they do not have interest in filing charges or finding the people who were responsible for vandalizing hitchBOT. They also assured that the experiment is not yet over.
"We know that many of hitchBOT's fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over," the statement reads. "For now we will focus on the question 'what can be learned from this?' and explore future adventures for robots and humans."