by Graham Pierrepoint
It’s something straight out of, say, Isaac Asimov, or even Futurama – the concept of robot police plodding the beat so our long-standing human cops don’t have to. The idea of an automaton providing our citizens with security on our streets is perhaps a little bit of a scary thought – particularly if you subscribe to any theories such as Prof Stephen Hawking’s thoughts on a potential robot uprising – but the fact of the matter is, we’ve already seen some AI hit the streets already, albeit in a very specific location and patrolling for a very specific purpose. Like driverless cars, this tech could grow to become colossal overnight and we won’t even know it – but for now, a number of office buildings in San Francisco have been employed to help keep premises secure.
Knightscape security robots have hired to helping protect sidewalks outside smart buildings in the area and have been dubbed ‘K9’ – not unlike the infamous talking robot dog from old episodes of Doctor Who – and they’ve been brought forward by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA. The SPCA has allowed their egg-shaped automatons to help ‘shoo’ homeless people away from their premises – as it is thought that crime related to homeless activity was on the rise in the area. The non-profit organisation brought their cyber coppers into effect in an effort to help the Mission neighborhood – and they’re thought to run on thermal imaging and laser scanning to patrol the streets. You can even hire them for around $7 an hour, which could well be set as a benchmark for robot rights if Prof Hawking’s thoughts on an uprising ▶ ever come to fruition.
The SPCA has drawn ire from officials who warn that the firm needs a permit in order for their mobile law enforcers to continue scooting around on the beat – and it’s thought that they could be fined $1000 if they don’t apply for one, or if they continue to let the K9s operate unlicensed. It’s a bizarre state of affairs that could really point towards the future we’re heading for.
Automated security is nothing new, but the idea of public robo coppers is something which will likely not sit well with the more technophobic among us – however, it could be the turning point for advancing robot evolution for years to come. Stay alert – the cyber cops are coming!