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A Silicon Valley company has introduced what may prove the next generation in night watchmen – a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound crime-fighting robot designed to stand sentry in the wee hours of the night.
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.”
“We founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook,” the company’s co-founder William Santana Li told the New York Times. “You are never going to have an armed officer in every school.”
But while Li hailed the robot as a breakthrough to be widely deployed in “schools, shopping centers, hotels, auto dealerships, stadiums, casinos, law enforcement agencies, seaports, and airports,” throughout the country, some are more uncertain over the tangential effects of turning over the reins to a robot.
“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.”
Knightscope says the K5 “utilizes a combination of autonomous robots and predictive analytics to provide a commanding but friendly physical presence while gathering important real-time on-site data with numerous sensors.
“Data collected through these sensors,” the company adds, “is processed through our predictive analytics engine, combined with existing business, government and crowd-sourced social data sets, and subsequently assigned an alert level that determines when the community and the authorities should be notified of a concern.”
A Youtube video of the K5 in action shows something that looks like a remote-control vacuum cleaner sizing up the license plate numbers of vehicles parked in an unidentified parking lot.
The Times writes the robot – whose sticker price has not been revealed -- will employ a video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, radar, air quality sensors, as well as a microphone.
Knightscope adds the robot will also utilize GPS, a night-vision camera, and biological, chemical and radiation detection systems.
Predictably, Knightscope is effusive about the robot’s potential upside, calling its introduction, “The Birth of a New Hometown Hero.”
“Imagine a friend that can see, hear, feel and smell that would tirelessly watch over your neighborhood, keep your loved ones safe and put a smile on anyone walking by your business,” the company crows about the K5. “Imagine if we could utilize technology to make our communities stronger and safer . . . together.”
“We don’t want to think about ‘RoboCop’ or ‘Terminator,’” Li told The Times. “We prefer to think of a mashup ‘Batman,’ ‘Minority Report’ and R2-D2 . . . We want to give the humans the ability to do the strategic work”