NCPRBot is the brainchild of Barb Heller, known to many of you as the host of the NCPR music program “String Fever.” And like many of you, she was disturbed to hear of the demise of HitchBot, a robotic hitchhiker who, after traveling in good health and good repair all the way across Canada and across Germany, came to a sticky end in the City of Brotherly love–Philadelphia, PA–shortly after being released into the wilds of the USA. As CBC journalist Lauren O’Neil tweeted at the time: “Canada’s hitchhiking robot lasts just two weeks in US before getting decapitated.”
The North Country, Barb supposed, was a kinder and gentler corner of the world and a robotic wanderer might fare a little better here. Not being a roboticist, her creation, NCPRBot, lacks a speech algorithm, has no GPS, no ability to tweet, no software of any kind. What Barb had to hand instead were plastic buckets, swimming pool “noodles” and a wide variety of NCPR chatchkes.
And along with the buckets was a “bucket list” of places to see, things that a visiting robot might like to do while wandering about the North Country, and instructions for his kind hosts to send back pictures and stories of his travels. She released NCPRBot onto the roads and trails of the North Country a few weeks back to see if, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” one could always depend “on the kindness of strangers.”
So far, so good. NCPRBot has already hit a number of items on his bucket list, and kind strangers have taken him hundreds of miles crisscrossing the region. More than 70 photos have come back to NCPR, via email, text message and Facebook, which Barb has collected into the following “Travels with NCPRBot” photo album.
Thanks to everyone who has seen him safely on his way and sent news home so we could all see how he was doing. And if you run into him in his travels, offer him a ride to somewhere great, and let us know how he’s getting on. You can text photos and messages to 315-840-0895, email to email@example.com, or post them on the NCPR Facebook page.