A wave of wandering security robots has started to replace traditional security guards around the United States, with a number of the robots soon to be placed in malls around New York.
“The firm Knightscope plans to roll out the rent-a-cop on wheels at shopping centers, college campuses and sports arenas in 16 cities, including ones in the Empire State, by the end of the year,” reported The New York Post on Tuesday. “The five-foot-tall R2D2-style automatons weigh 300 pounds, come equipped with multiple sensors and a 360-degree cameras along with license plate recognition technology.”
Knightscope’s co-founder and former police officer, Stacy Dean Stephens, claimed that the robots could be used to potentially save lives.
“We think that given the real-time information that we are gathering as well as historical information, it is very plausible that we can make an impact on crime and a positive impact on the economy,” said Stephens. “When the shootings took place in Sandy Hook, there were a lot of studies done on active shooting situations and one of those studies found that if we got one of those officers in that school 60 seconds sooner, we could have saved as many as 12 lives.”
“We wanted to figure out how you solve that problem and the only way to solve that problem is through actionable intelligence and the only way to get that form of intelligence is through eyes and ears,” he continued, adding that there were already over 1,000 investors interested in the product.
Some, however, are not as optimistic about the new robots, which can be hired at around $7 an hour via a subscription model, and come in both an indoor and outdoor formats.
“Shoppers like to interact with people and socialize. People come over to me and tell me how nice I am. Robots aren’t comforting. Can the robot find a lost child?” said one security guard based in New York. “[If they get popular], I won’t have a job.”
A drunk San Francisco man was even arrested after he knocked over one of the robots.
“41-year-old Jason Sylvain, approached the K5 while it was patrolling a parking lot. He toppled it over (out of spite or curiosity? We don’t know), inflicting a number of scratches on the bot,” reported the Verge on Wednesday. “The K5 is now back on patrol, while Sylvain has been arrested for ‘prowling and public intoxication.'”
Last year, one of the earlier model robots also ran over a toddler.
“The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” said the child’s mother in July. “He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries.”
Since the incident, the robot has now advanced, and Knightscope reportedly plans to add features such as gun detection, an array of 16 microphones, and IBM Watson integration.