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hitchBOT: The Robotic Friend

The formĀ  of networking we are used to has dominated social networks for a very long time is mainly driven by human interaction. The ability to meet other human beings and connect to them on an emotional level is something that has been treasured as a unique ability that living beings possess. We see examples of animals developing friendships much like humans do and their abilities to thrive in groups is closely related to the way humans have developed and grown over the years. Since the start of the technological revolution, we have seen machines develop and evolve into tools that are increasingly more powerful and adept at doing different tasks. For the most part, these tasks have been dangerous jobs that had put human lives at risk and the replacement with these machines made for more productivity and a safer work environment. Once computers had been developed, we were introduced to a new machine that was far superior to us computationally. Over the years their abilities to compute even more complex data and their speeds have grown exponentially. It was no surprise that these computers began taking over more sophisticated tasks in the job force. A robotic arm can now do tasks in a factory that was once thought could only be done by the human hand because of the dexterity it involved. An autonomous droid is now helping Amazon workers not only locate the packages needed, but also sometimes get them before the workers even knew it was ordered. More and more examples are popping up of computers, or robots, taking over jobs thought to be only capable of being accomplished by humans. However, we humans still pride ourselves in knowing that no machine can relate to us on an emotional level, or even make friends in the way that we do.


The hitchBOT, by Dr. David Smith and Dr. Frauke Zeller67uik, is an incredible insight into what robots can be capable of in a social setting. This “hitchhiking” robot was essentially a robot that traveled across Canada and Europe by meeting random strangers and building “memories” with the people he met. He took pictures of various moments with these strangers and documented them in his memory. Many of the people who interacted with hitchBOT described him as a person and referred to the bot with the pronouns “he” and “him” much like I was already doing in this blog post. He was referred to as a friend by most of the people he met and left a lasting impression with everyone he crossed paths with. When thinking about friendship, this is exactly how one would describe an actual person who had been a friend. It is still a far cry to say that a robot will develop emotions like humans do, but hitchBOT proved that even a robot can start to develop friends and soon what is to say that they won’t be able to develop networks of friends much like we do? We may still be the best at developing emotional links and networks between people, but the power of computers and the sophistication of artificial intelligence has evolved and will continue to evolve. Soon, robots may even be better and building social networks and determine human emotions better than we can.

Unfortunately, hitchBOT’s journey ended on August 1, 2015 in Philadelphia when he met two strangers and was “beheaded”.


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September 2015