Behold the Imposing Robot Security Guard, Now Deployed at Microsoft
November 17, 2014, 05:23 PM
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I reported on the surveillance robot last December (Surveillance Robot Is Touted as Security Aid (while It Eliminates Jobs) where the item was described by boosters as being like R2D2, the little fireplug droid in Star Trek. The industry-supplied photo made it look small and unthreatening, suitable for school use because it wouldnt scare the kiddies (shown below):

However, a more realistic photo of the thing has shown up on the web, and the 300-pound machine looks large, and more menacing than cute:

The news here is that the Microsoft company has installed five of them to patrol its Silicon Valley campus (aka workplace in tech speak). The machine wont be firing photon torpedoes at thieves any time soon, but your privacy is the target: the robot is a data-sucking monster from hell, as well as a human job extinguisher.

Of course, the rapid robotization of the workplace means that America needs ZERO immigrants to become future worker bees.

Here come the autonomous robot security guards: What could possibly go wrong?, ExtremeTech.com, November 17, 2014

Showing a rather shocking disregard for the long-term safety of human civilization, Microsoft has become one of the first companies to deploy autonomous robot security guards. Dubbed the K5, Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus was being policed last week by five of these roughly human-sized 300-pound (136 kg) robots, each equipped with enough cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence, and alarms that they can replace most human security patrols. Fortunately, despite looking like uncomfortably like a Dalek from the Doctor Who universe, the K5 is not (yet) equipped with a ray gun or any other method for harming or detaining humans.

The K5, built by the Californian company Knightscope, is billed rather euphemistically as an “autonomous data machine” that provides a “commanding but friendly physical presence.” Basically, it’s a security guard on wheels. Inside that rather large casing (it’s 5 foot tall!) there are four high-def cameras facing in each direction, another camera that can do car license plate recognition, four microphones, gentle alarms, blaring sirens, weather sensors, and WiFi connectivity so that each robot can contact HQ if there’s some kind of security breach/situation. For navigating the environment, there’s GPS and “laser scanning” (LIDAR I guess). And of course, at the heart of each K5 is a computer running artificial intelligence software that integrates all of that data and tries to make intelligent inferences — like, should I tell HQ about that large gathering of teenagers, or should that man be climbing in through that window?

If a K5 decides that there’s a situation, it can use one of its built-in sirens to try and diffuse things — or it can message HQ to summon a human. If you step in front of the K5, or otherwise interfere with it, it will gently warn you with some chimes — but if you don’t move, an “ear-piercing alarm” is triggered. Other than its sirens and its rather imposing design, the K5 isn’t equipped with any weapons or other tools for resolving situations. (Does anyone else think it looks like the lovechild of a Dalek and EVE from WALL-E?)

K5 isn’t just for catching criminals, either: If you find yourself in trouble/danger, there’s also a button on the top of the robot that summons help from HQ.

The purpose of the K5, like most robots, is straightforward: To replace expensive human workers. The K5 can run for around 24 hours on a single battery charge, automatically navigates back to the charging point when it’s running low, and only takes 15-20 minutes to recharge. Obviously, in the long run, this is cheaper and more efficient than a human security guard — plus, as technology improves, the K5 will probably be more vigilant and capable of spotting smaller discrepancies than a human. In theory, because of the lower cost, you could also field lots of K5 robots, reducing the number of potential holes in security coverage.

It goes without saying, though, that deploying a fleet of roughly human-sized, autonomous robots is just a little bit scary. At the very least, a 300-pound robot would cause a lot of damage if it ran into something — a car, a shop window, a child. In all likelihood, though, if these robotic security guards are popular, they’ll eventually be equipped with weapons — perhaps a taser for subduing a suspect, and a tear gas launcher for clearing groups of people. At that point, you need to be really sure that the AI is free of bugs.