When presented with the idea of a robot security guard, most of the sci-fi literate among us immediately conjure up images of the deadly and ridiculous ED-209 prototype from Robocop. As such, there is understandably a slight undercurrent of trepidation regarding any such announcement, regardless of how innocuous the machine in question may be.
Keen to strive ahead however is technology startup Knightscope, who are trialing what could perhaps be best described as IKEA designed ‘Daleks’ at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. The machines stand at around 5 feet tall, weigh in the range of 300 pounds and are armed with a wide array of sensors and cameras, along with a rather large battery. With an running time of 24 hours, the robots are designed to carry out the mundane patrols that comprise much of the work of security staff and police around the world.
The means by which they operate are understandably simple, given the early nature of the tech involved. In the first instance, much as with regular human security, their mere presence is meant to discourage criminal activity. Failing this, they are designed to seek out ‘trouble’ and record events with the use of a bevy of sensors, at which point human security can choose to intervene should the situation need it.
It seems however that it needn’t be the public who should be concerned by these machines, but the human security staff themselves. Knightscope have stated that the average charge for these machines will come to around $6.25 an hour, less than half of the average for security guards across the USA. Much as in the way that self-driving cars promise to threaten the freight industry, these machines may prove to be a significant impetus for change. Several significant challenges remain for Knightscope, however, not least in the scalability of their K5s. It is one thing for their machines to patrol an orderly, rich campus in an area with a historically low crime rate, how they will fare in more challenging areas is something that is yet to be seen (look out for the desert eagle attachment in the near future).
Despite these challenges, Knightscope have claimed high interest from a number of clients, in particular a number of companies who have seen an especially high rate of staff turnover. Whether the K5 will prove to be the vanguard of a coming security revolution is something that is yet to be seen, what is for sure is that the results of this experiment will prove to be highly interesting and potentially significant for the world at large in the near future. With Amazon investing heavily in drone transportation technology and Google seemingly to robotise every feature of our daily lives in the future, the question must be asked, what career cannot be mechanized?Further reading: Microsoft