NEWS

HitchBOT vandalized in Philadelphia, fans worldwide outraged

08/02/2015 11:50 EDT | Updated 08/02/2016 05:59 EDT
Even though hitchBOT's U.S. tour was cut short by vandalism, the celebrity status of the selfie-loving social media darling remains strong.

Hundreds of people expressed their outrage on social media after learning that the body of the adorable robot was damaged in Philadelphia, two weeks into its attempted trip to cross the U.S. 

The creators of the Ontario-made robot announced its sudden demise Saturday night, saying the robot was vandalized overnight.

"Sometimes bad things happen to good robots," hitchBOT's website read, providing no further detail on what exactly happened.

The brainchild of two Canadian researchers, including one from Hamilton's McMaster University, hitchBOT is a "social robot" experiment designed to study how humans interact with robots. 

The child-sized robot is made of materials that appear to be quickly cobbled together: a bucket for its torso, garden gloves to cover up its hitchhiking hands, and pool noodles tucked into a pair of bright yellow rubber boots. It's also equipped with a camera, a microphone and a speaker system, allowing it to interact with those who pick it up. Other features include 3G, WiFi, GPS and LED screen. 

Despite the impressive tech specs, HitchBOT is immobile on its own; instead, it uses its anthropomorphic charisma to charm travellers into giving it a ride. In summer 2014, hitchBOT travelled across Canada from Halifax to Victoria. In February, it successfully completed a similar trip in Germany, followed by a vacation in the Netherlands in June. Its U.S. trip began in Boston on July 17 with a goal of hitchhiking to San Francisco. 

Fans from Hamilton, the rest of Canada and across the world were left heartbroken by news of the robot's demise. 

...while some are calling for the unknown assailant(s) to be held accountable...

...others are already declaring "war" on our neighbour south of the border. 

CBC News will speak to hitchBOT co-creator David Harris Smith from McMaster University at noon E.T. to find out more about what happened. Stay tuned. 

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