But Philly’s robotics community is still fighting the good fight.
As if the whole HitchBOT scandal couldn’t get any more absurd, it now seems that the supposed surveillance video that purported to show an Eagles fan allegedly destroying the traveling robot is fake, created by Ed Bassmaster and Jesse Wellens, two local vloggers who specialize in pranks.
Speculation that the video was a hoax surfaced in the last 24 hours, spreading from Philly Mag’s business editor and reddit to local blog Crossing Broad and NBC10. Now Gizmodo’s Matt Novak has written a blog post headlined: “Vloggers Faked a Surveillance Video, But Did They Destroy hitchBOT? He breaks down the case quite clearly:
Wellens first posted a snippet of the “surveillance footage” on his Snapchat, but later handed over the footage below to reporters. As you can see it looks amateurishly staged, poorly acted, and has clearly been given artificial grain and distortion. Security footage hasn’t looked like this since the 1990s, bros.
Another sign pointing to the video being fake? As many commenters and the local news stations pointed out, there’s no surveillance cameras from that perspective on that street. But even if they faked the video footage, it’s still unclear whether they actually destroyed the bot.
Redditor adamv2 put the remaining options this way:
It’s one of the following
(1) they destroyed this thing for publicity, which if true is gonna bite them in the ass
(2) After they found out it was destroyed they banked on the fact they last had the thing to create a prank in which they create a fake surveillance video that makes people think it was them. They then benefit from the publicity. This is most likely the one
(3) The same as above, except the hitchbot isn’t destroyed. They have it safe, and will reveal this fact when they come clean. This would truly be a epic prank, since even the hitchbot creators were pranked. However the backlash could be bad for them.
(4) Same as #3, except even the hitchbot creators were in on the prank, and this was all planned in advance so all parties get publicity
(5) There never was a hitchbot.
That sounds about right, minus No. 5, since we know the project really exists. Bassmaster’s Facebook fans seem to think it’s No. 3, saying he’s not the kind of person who would do such an awful thing. He is, however, the kind of person who goes by the pseudonym “Always Teste,” and yesterday morning posted a Facebook item that said, “Apparently there is surveillance footage of Always Teste destroying the robot. Stay tuned.” That pretty much confirms the video is fake.