300-Pound ‘R2-D2’-like Robot is New Breed of Crime-Fighting Machine

A Silicon Valley company has introduced a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound crime-fighting robot designed to stand guard in schools and factories.

The 300 pound R5 Autonomous Data Machine looks like a hybrid of R2-D2 and the robot from Lost in Space. Photo: Knightscope

A Californian company, Knightscope, has developed a Robocop-on-wheels, which bears a striking resemblance to the Star Wars’ R2-D2.  The mobile robot, known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine, was created in the wake of Sandy Hook school shooting and has a mission to “cut crime by 50 per cent”

“We founded Knightscope after what happened … you are never going to have an armed officer in every school,” said William Santana Li, a co-founder of the company.

The K5 Autonomous Data Machine is intended “to augment private security services on corporate campuses and in large, vacant buildings and warehouses,” according to its developer, Knightscope, which added, “Tedious and monotonous monitoring should be handled by the K5, leaving ‘hands-on’ activities to security personnel.”

The K5’s weapons to fight crime and deter criminals are a “video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, radar, air quality sensors and a microphone.” All these are intended to alert you should it find anything out-of-the-ordinary as it patrols a “pre-planned route”.

Mr. Li envisions the K5 to have wireless access to a data server where it could recognise faces and license plates to identify crooks in the act. He even goes one-step further into Hollywood fantasy by expressing a desire to employ “precog” – a crime-prediction process seen in the movie Minority Report.

“This is like R2-D2’s evil twin,” Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, a privacy rights consortium located in Washington, D.C., explained to The Times.

“Once you enter public space and collect images and sound recordings, you have entered another realm. This is the kind of pervasive surveillance that has put people on edge.”

The company appears to understand that successfully gaining a foothold in the market could mean the elimination of many of the 1.3 million private security jobs in the United States.

They note the savings companies could gain from firing the already low-paid, largely non-union workers in favor of even cheaper—at least in the long run—robotic guards.

The minimum wage in the United States is $7.25, and $8 in California. Coming in substantially under those costs, Knightscope’s robot watchman service raises questions about whether artificial intelligence and robotics technologies are beginning to assault both the top and the bottom of the work force as well, as The New York Times reports.

However, according to the company, the role of the guards who keep their jobs will become more like an analyst.

“We want to give the humans the ability to do the strategic work,| Li told the Times.

Knightscope plans to trot out the K5 at a news event on Thursday — a debut that is certain to touch off a new round of debate, not just about the impact of automation, but also about how a new generation of mobile robots affects privacy.

Knightscope is developing technology with groundbreaking capability to predict and prevent crime utilizing autonomous operation, robotics, big data, sensors and predictive analytics. Autonomous Data Machines gather real-time on-site data and combine it with existing large data sets as well as relevant social network feeds, providing the ability to map the future, says Reuters.

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