Resembling something that looks like a combination of an oversised, space-age chess piece and R2-D2 of “Star Wars” fame, Knightscope’s K5 robot nevertheless represents the cutting edge of security technology. Just under 2 meters tall (around 5 feet), and weighing about 140 kilograms, K5 is a real, autonomous robot designed specifically for security, safety, and crime prevention.
Photo Credit: Knightscope.com
K5 should start becoming a common sight around, schools, shopping malls, parking lots, and other public places soon. In fact they have already patrolled a Microsoft campus. More than just a rolling video camera, K5 is the new generation of security systems and comes fully armed with an arsenal of high-tech hardware. These include GPS, a microphone, air quality sensors, thermal imaging sensors, and a laser…range finder, that is. K5 collects data, but isn’t equipped with any weapons to date.
The K5 Advantage
However, K5 does more than just monitor live action; this robot has a detailed data base with which to compare any new data. In other words, K5 has the ability to recognise people, places, and things. If something, or someone–a known criminal, perhaps–is spotted, K5 will automatically go to full alert mode. When this happens, all sensors will be activated, and the community will be given access to real time information. Also, these robots utilise a wireless data system to communicate with each other and with human security teams, who can then remotely operate K5’s numerous tools.
While walking, talking security robots–like those seen in the Hollywood version of Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”–are still a thing of the future, K5 does retain some ability to interact with the public. For instance, anyone needing help can stop a nearby robot and press a “help” button, summoning human assistance.
Looking somewhat like a bullet-shaped penguin, K5’s presence is not intimidating, though his “smile” is all business–this robot won’t take any guff. Cross K5’s path, and it will stop abruptly so you can hail assistance. Any attempts to detain it, however, will be met with a series of intensifying alarm responses, which, of course, are being sent out to a surveilance center, as well. If you try harassing the robot, you may find yourself talking to an authority figure.
In patrol mode, K5 travels about 5 kph (about 3 mph), but can cruise along at speeds of almost 30 kph. That’s not quite fast enough to run down a criminal, but it could be enough to evade capture. Not that this robot could help anyone if it were to be detained, though. You would be making a huge mistake if you tried; K5 would collect so much information you’d have to move to a different planet in order to avoid prosecution.
Pros and Cons
The best thing about K5 is it’s presence. Criminals will quickly learn just how smart–and potentially protective–this robot can be. Because K5 lacks any weapons, criminals may not take the robot seriously, at first, though they will learn to respect its array of information collecting tools.
On the downside, K5 does have some mobility issues. To date, it is limited to fairly even terrains, like parking lots and hallways–a street curb could topple it. As it weighs about 300 pounds, and cannot lift itself, a fall will basically put it out of commission until it is again righted. This shouldn’t put off interested parties, however. K5 is a huge leap in the advancement of security robots technology, and once programmed, K5 will teach itself about its surroundings. That’s an “A” plus in robot school, and an important part of the mindset behind the way security robots “think.”
One cool thing about K5 you might like is it’s ability to monitor its own battery. A 15 to 20 minute charge is good for 24 hours, and K5 will make its way to a charging station whenever it senses its battery is low. True, that’s still kind of lame compared the idea of a robot with working, lethal laser beams, but the technology for robots responsible enough to use them may still be a ways off. Robot technology will need to administer Asimov’s “3 laws” regarding human safety before anyone arms them with too much hardware. Otherwise security robots might resemble some of the monstrosities seen in the “Robocop” movies–mechanical pitbulls from hell, exhibiting no discretion as to whom they obliterated.
In the light of that comparison, K5 looks good, friendly, and a security measure you’d actually want around.