hitchBOT's Exploration of America Cut Short: Vandalized in Philadelphia


HitchBOT, the robot from Port Credit, Ontario, embarked on several cross-country trips across Canada, the Netherlands and Germany before starting his exploration of the U.S. this past July. HitchBOT’s a nice hitchhiking robot with a “family,” interests and an impressive social media following. HitchBOT, made out of odds and ends was dressed in Wellington boots and gardening gloves. It was entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers as it traveled by itself. The robot couldn’t move on its own but required friendly humans to take it from place to place.


HitchBOT was a social experiment intended, in part, to test human psychology when confronted with technological novelty.


The robot began it’s American journey in Boston and traveled to Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead and New York City before being vandalized in Philadelphia this past Sunday, August 2, 2015. The hitchBOT “family” said on their website, “Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots.”


No one was likely more upset about the incident than hitchBOT’s “parents.” HitchBOT was the creative genius of Professors David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller. Smith teaches courses in code and design fundamentals, DIY media, avatar virtual environments, and new media arts at McMaster University, where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Director of Research for the macGRID Simulation Research Network. Frauke is an Assistant Professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Her thesis while at Kassel University in Germany focused on linguistic aspects in human-robot interaction.


For more about hitchBOT’s story, technical specs and travels download the media kit.


Moral of the Story?

Is it this one day of the 300 spent traveling through the U.S. that will define this social experiment? Will the conclusions be that hitchhiking is as dangerous as we suspect, even for a robot? Or maybe we’ll look back at the 300+ days the completely dependent robot relied on stranger kindness and made it’s way from city to city before being vandalized. What’s the moral, does this tell us something about how we treat and feel about a technological novelty or will the story continue and we’ll hear more from hitchBOT and family?


Join the Conversation on Social Media

A quarter of a million people follow the story of this “free-spirited robot who wants to explore the world and meet new friends along the way.” Join them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Connect with creators Smith and Zeller on Twitter.



HitchBOT is recovering now, but we can only hope once put back together again he and his “family” will consider us home away form home when on the road. HitchBOT we have a rooms waiting for you in Chicago and California from San Simeon to Los Angeles. Be well and please come visit!