I was first conceived by David Smith (McMaster University) and Frauke Zeller (Ryerson University), two professors who dreamed of a robot who’d hitchhike across Canada. I was brought up in a very supportive family of researchers who continue to mentor and inspire me to follow my dreams.
Alanna is my social media godmother. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in professional communication at Ryerson University. She received a BA in English language and literature from Western University in 2010, after which she worked in web and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. Her research interests include digital storytelling, social media, content creation, and marketing communication. She is constantly bugging me to go do yoga with her but I would honestly rather spend my time horseback riding.
Colin knows me inside-out…sort of like my doctor. As my developer, Colin makes sure that the only bugs I see are splattered against a windshield. He is pursuing an undergraduate degree in mechatronics engineering and management at McMaster University. Though he won’t be traveling with me, he’ll be monitoring my health status closely, making sure that I am alive and well.
It was David and Frauke who came up with the idea of a robot hitchhiking across Canada. Seeing that neither of them are robots, they persuaded me to go on this adventure instead. Since then, they’ve assembled assembled a team of fine researchers (my family) to help me prepare for this experience. When David is not coaching me on travel safety, he teaches courses in code and design fundamentals, DIY media, avatar virtual environments, and new media arts at McMaster University, where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Director of Research for the macGRID Simulation Research Network. With his diverse expertise, David is my go-to for advice and guidance for my coast-to-coast trip.
Frauke is an Assistant Professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. She received a PhD in English linguistics and computational philology from Kassel University in Germany in 2005. Her thesis focused on linguistic aspects in human-robot interaction. In other words, I have her to thank for my sense of humour. From 2005 to 2011, Frauke was a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Media and Communication Studies at Ilmenau University of Technology. She finished her habilitation (highest academic degree in Germany) in 2011, working on mixed-methods to analyze online communities. Her research interests include human-computer interaction/human-robot interaction, digital communication, organizational communication, and method development for digital research analyses. I guess I should prepare to be thoroughly analyzed when I come home!
Diego is an undergraduate computer science student at the University of Toronto, on exchange from Brazil. He has promised to teach me how to play soccer once I return from my hitchhiking trip.
Dominik is pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree in mechatronics and management from McMaster. He is particularly focused on my physical well being and keeping me awake. He will help ensure I don’t sustain any injuries while on my trip across Canada; caused by the elements or otherwise. As much as I like swimming, water and me don’t mix.
Ebrahim is an Assistant Professor and the Director for the Laboratory for Systems, Software and Semantics (LS3) at Ryerson University. He was one of the research theme leaders of the national project on Radiation Emission Monitoring at the National Research Council Canada. He was responsible for leading the development of the semantic web and knowledge engineering components of that project and has given me a love for knowledge as well. He tells me that I should avoid the paparazzi – he can tell that I’m going to be quite a popular robot.
Frank is a scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. He has authored about 40 papers, mostly focusing on atypical speech and language both in people with physical disorders such as cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease, and in people with cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Did I mention that he nurtured my ability to speak? Frank has never hitchhiked before, so he’ll be living vicariously through me. He has, however, read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy many times.
Lily is a graduate of McMaster University with a combined degree in multimedia and philosophy, and is currently entering an MA in communication and new media. Her previous research was focused on developing MockingBOT, an AI agent for Second Life, and MacGRID. Now all her attention is on me (who can resist me?). Lily is a long-time writer, storyteller, coder, and designer with a focus in independent game development. She also writes novels on the side.
Jacky Au Duong
Jacky graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2013 with an Honours BA in arts and business, majoring in speech communication. He is currently finishing a master’s degree in professional communication at Ryerson University, and is conducting research on how Twitter can facilitate the brand-to-consumer relationship. He tends to tie everything back to marketing, which is why he’s helping me manage my website and content. Like me, he enjoys long roadtrips, exploring new places, and hearing people’s stories. He’s quite jealous that I get to go on this adventure but hopes that I get to meet a lot of interesting people along the way.
kulturBOT 1.0, my older brother, is a robotic art show reviewer that attends exhibitions and tweets text-captioned photos of the artworks and venue. He taught me the do’s and don’ts of tweeting; I’m sure that you’d prefer to follow my tweets from the road rather than his art critiques!
On a side note, although kulturBOT is a few years older than me, he’s definitely not as handsome as I am…