Artificial intelligence is a subject that makes a lot people awfully jumpy. What if the machines become sentient and overpower us? Can we really trust them? Ontario's Ryerson University professor, Frauke Zeller, is flipping that question on its head: can the robots trust us?
With this question in mind, she created hitchBOT, an anthropomorphic robot on a cross-country hitchhiking adventure. Of course, it helps that hitchBOT's pool noodle arms and plucky LED smile are far more reminiscent of "the Jetsons" than "Terminator."
The robot has a charming simplicity and speaks in a clipped voice using Cleverspeak, an open-source artificial intelligence program used for making conversation as it travels Canada, Europe and now America. Just this week, Zeller dropped hitchBOT off, with everything he needs for his adventure, at the side of the road, hoping for his first stranger.
As hitchBOT travels across the United States, he relies on the kindness of strangers, asking them for help with what he calls his "bucket list" and chatting about his travels. Nothing much is required of the people who pick him up, beyond keeping his battery charged and leaving him in a place at the side of the road where he can get picked up.
Ready for the USA from hitchBOT. Although be warned, if you pick up hitchBOT, think twice about letting him DJ the road trip. He has a preference for electronic music. Kraftwerk, Blueman Group and Mr. Roboto are his favorites. Robots, am I right?