Crime-Fighting Robots on Patrol in Silicon Valley

Nothing says safety like a roaming hoard of Daleks. No way this goes wrong.

In the latest development from Silicon Valley, the Knightscope K5 Security Robot has begun patrolling the streets to fight crime, like a horde of Dalekian Robocops. This isn’t some dystopian spoof— this is actually happening. Perhaps it’s a necessary response to a world where spiked-baseball bats are being distributed by a secret organization.

The Mountain View based developer built the K5 (not to be confused with Doctor Who’s K9) to be cute and inviting to the public. “We’ve had people go up and hug it, and embrace it for whatever reason,” said Stacy Stephens, co-founder of the borderline cartoonishly named Knightscope.

“The first thing that’s going to happen is the burglar is going to spot the robot. And unfortunately, criminals are inherently lazy. They’re not looking for something that’s going to be confrontational, they’re looking for something that’s going to be an easy target,” Stacy Stephens told CBS San Francisco. “They see the robot and maybe they move down to the next place down the street.”

The autonomous patrol units weigh in at more than 300 pounds and are about five feet tall. Their control and movements are based on the same technology that power the new Google Self-Driving cars. The K5 gathers important real-time, on-site data through its numerous sensors, which is then processed through a predictive analytics engine. There it is combined with existing business, government, and crowdsourced social data sets to determine if there is a concern or threat in the area. If so, an issue is created with an appropriate alert level and a notification is sent to the community and authorities through the Knightscope Security Operations Center (KSOC), a browser based user interface.

The units monitor for various “crime triggers” within a predefined parameter including the sounds of breaking glass or shouting, then captures geo-tags, photos, video, nearby license plates, facial recognition, timestamps, and much more.

At this time, they are not armed. Thankfully. They are also designed to avoid confrontation by always giving humans the right-of-way, so don’t worry about getting run down by a 300-pound vacuum cleaner.

If you’re interested in procuring a horrifying yet lovable crime robot to protect your family, pre-orders are currently open through Knightscope’s website. The pricing model is also expressed as follows:

“For your reference, we operate on a Machine-as-a-Service (MaaS) business model and our preliminary pricing for a well-equipped machine is $4,500 per month for 24/7 operations equating to approximately $6.25 per hour (!).”

So yes, these robots are earning slightly less than minimum wage and slightly more than service industry jobs for humans. Welcome to a whole set of complicated ethical questions that only Paul Verhoeven is qualified to answer.

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