Uber drivers who pay a visit to the company's inspection lot near Mission Bay in San Francisco will be met with a rather strange sight: a five-foot-tall, white, egg-shaped robot wheeling around the lot, on the look-out for trouble. The robot is a K5, a 300-pound security robot made by Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope. Stacy Stephens, Knightscope's VP of marketing, says Uber is a recent customer of the company. The robot has multiple high-definition cameras for 360-degree vision, a thermal camera, a laser rangefinder, a weather sensor, a license-plate recognition camera, four microphones, and person recognition capabilities. Once set up in a geofenced area, "it roams around looking for anomalies," said Stephens.
Ever since RoboCop and Terminator 2: Judgment Day hit our screens a quarter century ago, people have dreaming about the use of robots to stop making hamburgers and packing boxes and start protecting the general populace. That's the mission statement of the 300-pound K5 security robot: a hefty robotic alternative to the regular security guard who packs an impressive number of features. Having been in development for a few years, the K5 has been making the news this week -- after being spotted in its (his?) new job as a mall cop at Stanford Shopping Center, where the sighting has even prompted the hashtag #securityrobot. Related: China's first robotic security guard makes its debut "Think of the K5 as an advanced anomaly detection device," Stacy Dean Stephens, manufacturing company Knightscope's vice president of marketing and sales, tells Digital Trends. "It patrols within a geofenced area using its sensors to alert security professionals of potential threats.
A Silicon Valley startup has developed a robot that may soon replace mall cops. Knightscope, which specializes in fully autonomous security data machines, says it is officially signed up to patrol malls in New York and Massachusetts, with nearly two dozen accounts set up across 16 cities this year. "We're starting off in the public arena, so we are allowing them to patrol places like shopping centers, corporate campuses, professional sporting arenas and movie studios. Once the [robots] prove that what we are saying they are doing is actually happening, then you go to a mayor and say, 'hey, we are actually able to reduce crime,' and they are going to buy into this very, very, quickly," Stacy Dean Stephens, co-founder and VP of marketing and sales, tell FOX Business. Knightscope, which launched in 2013 after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut -- where 26 kids and adults were shot and killed – was designed to provide intelligence to security centers and law enforcement to help alleviate crime.
As robots begin to appear on sidewalks and streets, they're being hazed and bullied. Last week, a drunken man allegedly tipped over a 300-pound security robot in Mountain View, California. The incident kicked off a spree of cheeky, only-in-2017 headlines: "Armless robot loses fight to drunk man" and "Security robot beat up in parking lot, police say." If a robot is getting hassled in the heart of Silicon Valley, what happens when machines venture outside friendly territory? The robotics era is beginning.
William Santana Li imagines a future where robots will keep Americans safe. Communities, he dreams, will take security into their own hands by investing in wheeled machines that patrol streets, sidewalks and schools -- instantly alerting residents via a mobile app of intruders or criminal behavior. "What if we could crowd-source security?" said Li, co-founder and chief executive of a robotics company, Knightscope, that hopes to eventually do just that. His question is like many posed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs seeking to modernize, privatize and monetize services once entrusted to the government -- and it's one that has intrigued venture capitalists who have pumped 14 million into his start-up. Already, Knightscope robots are edging into the private security industry, patrolling parking lots, a shopping center and corporate campuses in California.