Hitchbot robot, the recent social digital innovation of Frauke Zeller and David Smith from Canada was unfortunately beheaded early Aug. 2015 upon its arrival into the United States. They created the robot as a social experiment to test human reactions to having a robot moving about freely in what is normally a 100% human domain.
The robot itself was unable to walk or move in any way. It relied completely on those nearby to facilitate it’s travels. After traveling throughout Canada, the Netherlands and Germany Hitchbot premiered in the USA. After only two weeks, having begun in Boston it’s final resting place was Philadelphia where it was vandalized and beheaded.
The Hitchbot family responded by saying, “Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots.”
This is just the first of many robotic social experiments to come in the near future. With costs having come so far down to building robotic technology we should expect that seeing robots in our cities will become increasingly commonplace. I predict within the next 10-20 years having attained complete ubiquity.
There is great potential for future robotic technology to serve the social good. I recall reading an article from March of this year that mentioned the innovation of Robo-cops to help regulate traffic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is an example of how local people observed a problem and used technology in a very creative way as a means to resolve it. Even better in this case is that it was a women’s engineering group ‘Women’s Technology’ responsible for the innovation. The problem they were responding too was the general lack of respect for traffic laws, which called for more law enforcement. These robots equipped with chests that rotate and send real-time data to the local police including the flow of traffic and photos. This helped to fill the gap in the police force and enabled them to better manage the excessive number of traffic crimes that were being committed on a daily basis.
Thankfully we live in an era where the technological building blocks to social problems are ubiquitous. What we need is a driven, ambitious population with the courage and will to continue to come up with creative ways to implement these technologies and make a real difference in peoples lives. The future looks bright!