It looks like a small bucket with arms and legs attached. An electronic smiling face sits on the top with the message "San Francisco or Bust" written below it. Who could say no to that face?
Someone did, with their foot.
hitchBOT was an experimental robot created by professors at Canada's Ryerson and McMaster University to test how humans would react to a robot in need of assistance. Lacking any means of moving itself, it relies on the generosity of people to travel, with the goal of crossing the country.
"This is both an artwork and social robotics experiment," co-creator Frauke Zeller told The Atlantic last summer. "Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots, e.g. as helpers in our homes. But this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?"
The answer: some humans are less trustworthy than others. Specifically, Americans. More specifically: Philadelphians.
After crossing Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, hitchBOT's U.S. road trip only lasted from Boston to Philadelphia, where its creators announced the robot was vandalized past the point of functioning. Its batteries are dead, and the creators were sent an image showing it in pieces.
Philadelphia vlogger Jesse Wellens claimed on Twitter to have surveillance footage of the attack. A second Twitter account later posted a video, allegedly from Wellens' Snapchat account, of a man in an Eagles jersey curb stomping something just off camera.
It could be the moment of the robot's mutilation. Or it could be a very spirited young man practicing the art of Appalachian clogging. Either way, it doesn't look good for hitchBOT.
The bots' creators told the Associated Press they are considering whether or not to rebuild hitchBOT, while a local Kickstarter campaign to resurrect the one that died in Philadelphia already has been funded.
Hopefully, the outpouring of support will count for something in the revolution to come.