For many years now Sci-Fi shows have mixed the themes of law and order with robots of various designs. Sometimes those with artificial intelligence are shown to be on the side of justice, a la RoboCop, or Blade Runner (maybe?). But, more often than not, robots are portrayed as the antagonists.

Now California-based company Knightscope will be hoping its new K5 Beta prototype will be one of the good guys as it pursues its corporate mission to cut crime by 50%.

The K5 is a 5 feet tall bullet-shaped robot that packs a wide range of sensors that can see, hear, smell and touch its environment. Future editions of the robot will likely be far more high-tech with Knightscope equiping each unit with facial recognition and also the ability to detect radiation as well as airborne pathogens.

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Data collected by these sensors is “processed through our predictive analytics engine, combined with existing business, government and crowdsourced social data sets, and subsequently assigned an alert level that determines when the community and the authorities should be notified of a concern.”

In other words, the K5 robot will be able to combine real-time data it collects with existing information in order to make an informed decision as to whether a crime is about to be committed and, indeed, when and where such a misdeed may occur. One can only hope that future crime prediction proves to be more reliable than in the movie Minority Report.

Should the K5 detect an “incident” it will make all of its data available via Wi-Fi and allow a crowdsourced investigation to take place. Whilst such an opening up of crime detection could have its benefits I do wonder about the ramifications should incidents or alleged suspects be misidentified.

Also, with the K5’s data being publicly accessible I wonder if that will actually be enough to convince the public of the system’s merits?

Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy and information Center, said,

“There is a big difference between having a device like this one on your private property and in a public space. 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’s CEO, William Santana Li responded by telling The New York Times that,

“As much as people worry about Big Brother, this is as much about putting the technology in the hands of the public to look back. Society and industry can work together on this issue.”

With testing of the K5 in beta stage it may not be too long before US citizens see the robots patrolling the streets and guarding their schools. Only time will tell if the robotic security guard proves to be good value at an estimated running cost of just $6.25 per hour. a significant saving on the wages paid to more traditional security personnel.

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