Would you give this robot a ride?

A talking robot is hitchhiking its way across Canada as part of a human-robot interaction study that will shine a light on whether robots can trust humans.

Researchers in Canada have used different household products to create a friendly robot that needs humans help to achieve its task: hitchhike across Canada. 

Roboticist Frauke Zeller from Ryerson University and communications expert David Smith from McMaster University, both in Canada, created the hitchBot as part of a social experiment that aims to answer the question “can robots trust humans?”

hitchBot is as tall as the average six-year-old, can speak and hold a conversation—apparently the robot loves to talk about astrophysics—has a hitchhiking hand, and wears yellow wellies. Its face is made out of LED lights, which gives it a range of facial expressions, and its body is wrapped in solar panels. hitchBot, however, can’t walk and has to be carried every time someone stops to pick it up from the road.

Once the ‘cute’ robot meets its new human companion, it will tweet its location and ask for permission to take pictures and post them on Facebook and Instagram. And when it needs recharging, it will ask its human companion to plug it into the cigarette lighter in the cars—and so far no one has said no. The robot’s adventure began on July 27.

“This is both an artwork and a social robotics experiment,” explained Zeller and Harris in a press release. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots, e.g. as helpers in out homes. But this project takes it the other way around.”

hitchBot ‘wrote’ as part of his online bio:

“I’m excited and a bit nervous about whether people will pick me up or if they will be nice to me along the way. I don’t have a specific route and I’m not sure how long it will take but I’m up for the adventure.” 

Discover how hitchBot works in the video below:

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