Fans demand justice for hitchBOT, 'killed' after only two weeks in US

People are looking for someone in Philadelphia who dismantled the beloved hitchBOT, which had been relying on the kindness of strangers to transport it across the country.

Charles Krupa/AP
As pre-game activity begins, hitchBOT rests on the wall along the first base line before a baseball game at Fenway Park between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers in Boston on July 24. The Canadian researchers who created hitchBOT as a social experiment say someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair on Saturday, ending its brief American tour.

It’s not always sunny in Philadephia.

Social media today is alight with tributes to hitchBOT, the beloved hitchhiking android that was reported mutilated in the city over the weekend.

Some of this attention has also escalated into anger toward Philadelphia, a city that, despite having a name that means "City of Brotherly Love," is also known for having a mile-wide mean streak. People still recall, for instance, that Philadelphia Eagles game in 1968 when fans during a halftime show booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snowballs.

Jesse Wellens, a popular Philadelphia YouTube video-maker and prankster who had picked up the robot in the city on Friday night, took to Twitter in light of the news. “Of course Killadelphia Kills the Robot!” he wrote. “Thanks Philly!!! You freaking Killed @hitchBOT I’m so mad right now.”

HitchBOT had been on its first American tour. The robot was just two weeks into its quest when on Saturday when it was decapitated and dumped it on the side of a road, reported VICE. It had been hoping to reach San Francisco by summer’s end.

The robot’s journey had always been a gamble, according to its creators at Ryerson University in Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Acting as an experiment of human kindness, hitchBOT relied on strangers to survive and be passed around.

Its creators had had big plans, making for the droid an American bucket list, only one item of which managed to be completed.

Now, users point out, hitchBOT will never “be sleepless in Seattle.” It will not, as they had hoped, “experience the magic of Walt Disney World, Florida.”

The robot, outfitted with pool-noodle-arms, bright yellow Wellington rain boots, and an electronic smiley face, had already captured the delight of fans long before its American voyage, having successfully completed tours of Canada and parts of Europe.

Fans learned of hitchBOT’s demise on Saturday. Its creators have said in a statement they are not looking to find the people responsible for its attack. “We have no interest in pressing charges … We wish to remember the good times, and we encourage hitchBOT’s friends and fans to do the same,” they added.

That may be hard for some followers, who expressed heated demands for the mysterious vandals.

“Bring hitchBOT’s murderers to justice!” wrote one fan.

“The hitchhiking robot @hitchBOT has been destroyed by scumbags in Philly,” tweeted tech website Gizmodo.

Fans have called for the release of security footage from the scene of its demise. But hitchBOT’s creators said its battery died beforehand, disabling the ability to track its location.

Not everyone is so heartbroken. “HitchBOT was just a big weakling who can’t handle America,” tweeted one critic.

“This great experiment is not over,” said hitchBOT’s creators. “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots.”

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