Hours after the city's tech community came forward with offers to restore hitchBOT, the globe-trotting robot that was dismembered over the weekend in Old City, a video was posted showing a man in an Eagles jersey going after the little ambassador.
The video was posted by Jesse Wellens, the Philadelphian who said he found the robot while driving around early Saturday. He said he held on to the robot for a couple of hours, then dropped it off on a bench on Second Street at Elfreth's Alley between 4:30 and 5 a.m.
The footage shows a man kicking hitchBOT on the bench around 5:45 a.m., according to a date tag on the video. The assailant is wearing a No. 12 Eagles jersey, the number worn by Randall Cunningham.
The posting, however, says nothing about where the video came from or anything else about its provenance.
Wellens said it came from area surveillance cameras. He did not respond to numerous requests to comment about how he acquired the video.
What happened to hitchBOT after it was attacked is not known. The Canadian researchers who created it said Monday that they were contacted by a Rhode Island man who told them he had picked up what was left of the robot and would mail it to them this week.
HitchBOT stopped transmitting Saturday morning, said David Harris Smith, who teaches communication science at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and Frauke Zeller, who teaches communication at Ryerson University in Toronto.
So far, the incident is not a police matter.
Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said Monday that no police report had been filed and that the absence of a complaint "makes it a little hard for us to even have a starting point."
But based on accounts of hitchBOT's fate on social media, Stanford said, "it appears that it would be a vandalism."
The researchers said they had no plans to file a police report, in part because of their distance away, in Canada.
"We want to focus on the good things, instead of putting a shadow on the whole thing," Zeller said. She and Smith said the researchers had been immensely touched and intrigued by the outpouring of support for hitchBOT.
Even before the surveillance video emerged, the city's tech community rallied to save hitchBOT.
The website Geekadelphia tweeted: "Philly has a great robotics community. Let us fix you."
Eric Smith of Geekadelphia said the organization was trying to rally Philadelphia's tech-savvy sector to come together in support of hitchBOT.
The Hacktory said it welcomed anyone interested in helping hitchBOT to attend its Thursday "Drop in and Do" night from 7 to 9 at 3711 Market St. The Hacktory, part of a Philadelphia-based collaboration known as the Department of Making and Doing, offers adults and children classes on electronics, coding, and technology.
The Hacktory's executive director, Georgia Guthrie, said the group was asking interested Philadelphians to contribute whatever they could to the effort. The most expensive component of hitchBOT that needs replacing is a computer tablet that allowed it to communicate with people.
"It's kind of rare to have such a clear opportunity to put our tools to use to benefit people's overall well-being," Guthrie said. "We work on weird stuff all the time. It would be great."
After sojourns across Germany, the Netherlands, and the Northeast, the future of the child-size robot - which depended on humans giving it rides - is largely unknown.
Smith and Zeller, the professors who made hitchBOT, said Monday that building hitchBOT was a year-and-a-half endeavor, and that it would take months for them to re-create the little bot.
They dreamed up hitchBOT, a composite of "hitchhike" and "robot," as a social experiment to test human reactions to a helpless robot. Without human assistance, hitchBOT would never be able to travel.
Before this weekend, hitchBOT was featured on various social-media sites traveling with sympathetic drivers and experiencing human social events, from baseball games to family get-togethers.
All of those experiences, Zeller said, made hitchBOT's life worthwhile.