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Brief Published: 11 Aug 2014

HitchBot: Robot Hitchhiker

Hitchbot is a friendly robot that is currently making its way across Canada by hitchhiking – alone – as part of a "collaborative art project" exploring trust between humans and machines.

The adventure is the brainchild of researchers at McMaster University in Canada, who hope to discover whether robots will be safe in society. Co-creator Frauke Zeller said: "Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots... but this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?"

Hitchbot is travelling from Halifax in Nova Scotia (just off Canada's east coast) to an art gallery in Victoria on the west coast – a journey of more than 4,400km. The robot is entirely reliant on the kindness of strangers to give it a lift.

Using speech recognition technology, Hitchbot can make conversation with drivers during its journey. It can also tweet its location using a GPS tracker and take pictures with its in-built camera. You can follow Hitchbot's progress via its Twitter and Instagram pages.

Robot missions are a popular way of engaging the general public – particularly children – with the potential of digital technology. Schemes such as Lyka's Adventure, an educational project based around a GPS-connected toy, can encourage digital collaboration and creativity between schools across large geographical distances. For more on the potential of digital tools to drive creativity, see The Future of Education and The Classroom Revolution.

Meanwhile, anthropomorphised interfaces are playing an increasingly important role in strengthening the level of trust between humans and computers. For more, see Lift 2014: Playful Tech, and look out for our upcoming Macro Trend, Post-Digital.

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