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Your mom was adamant that you should never pick up hitchhikers, but even she might have made an
exception for hitchBOT: a robot from Port Credit, Ontario. The creation of Drs. David Smith (McMaster
University) and Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University), hitchBOT is — in his own words — "a
free-spirited robot who wants to explore the world and meet new friends along the
way. I am an avid Instagrammer and tweeter. On my downtime, I can appreciate a
good game of trivia and would never pass up any opportunities to bake desserts."
In 2014, he hitchhiked more than 6,000 km ( 3,700 mi) from Halifax, Nova Scotia,
to Victoria, British Columbia. The 26 day trip included 19 rides. Then, in February 2015,
hitchBOT set off on a trek through Germany, with stops at Neuschwanstein Castle,
Brandenburg Gate, and Cologne Cathedral. The trip included rides in a sports car, a
bus, and even a bicycle.
hitchBOT is said to be relatively talkative, employing the Cleverscript AI speech
technology (details at www.cleverscript.com). It can answer questions about itself,
astrophysics, philosophy, and other subjects. Its language skills are still developing,
though, so responses may not always make a lot of sense. hitchBOT is also unable to
move around on its own, so it is entirely dependent on the good will of people who
help him along the way.
Future destinations have not been announced, but you can follow his activities at
www.hitchbot.me, www.facebook.com/hitchbot, twitter.com/hitchbot, or
instagram.com/hitchbot. If you happen to see him thumbing a ride, just pull over, tip
your tuque at him, and ask, "How's she bootin'er?" Maybe even offer him a ride. It
might be fun, eh? SV
hitchBOT catches a ride in an
SUV on his way to Victoria, BC.
SERVO 07.2015 9
Brickbot: Fast but Pricey
There's a good chance you missed the 2015 World of Concrete trade
show, which drew nearly 56,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors to the Las
Vegas Convention Center. If you had made the trip, you might have caught a
demonstration of the show's Most Innovative Product Award winner: the
SAM100 (Semi-Automated Mason) robotic bricklayer. Apparently, there is a
serious shortage of skilled masons in the US, so Construction Robotics
( construction-robotics.com) developed SAM to help fill the gap.
It turns out that SAM is pretty darn good at it and is able to lay about 230
bricks per hour, compared to the 300 to 500 per day placed by the average
brick mason. The company insists that the system isn't going to put anyone out
of work, though. A representative noted that masons who work with the
device will be able "to focus on tooling
joints, monitoring wall quality, and
performing tasks such as installing
insulation, wall ties, and lintels ... SAM
definitely improves the health aspects of
masonry, particularly the impact of the
work on mason’s backs. Currently,
masons lift the equivalent of two to three pickup trucks each week."
With a price tag of $650,000, SAM will be out of reach for small masonry firms,
so most workers will still need to keep a bottle of Advil handy.
SAM100 lays approximately 230 modular
through utility sized bricks per hour.