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Summary:

The five-foot-tall bot can be paired with a software suite that helps officials crunch data from social media, crime reports and the robot.

Knightscope K5 robot
photo: Knightscope

The Knightscope K5 robot’s 5-foot-tall bullet-shaped frame is impressive. Studded with cameras and sensors and colored Stormtrooper black and white, it really is imposing. But that’s the point: It’s a robot cop, and it doesn’t want you to forget it.

At the Launch Festival today in San Francisco, CEO William Santana Li showed me the robot’s capabilities. The K5 can see, feel, hear and smell to determine whether biochemicals or radiation are present and collect data like license plate numbers, video and thermal images. It charges itself and moves autonomously.

CEO William Santana Li with a K5. Photo by Signe Brewster.

CEO William Santana Li with a K5. Photo by Signe Brewster.

While it’s not about to shoot someone, it can instantly report a problem to authorities and include relevant data like a video of the incident and license plate data. Imagine if no one had to call 911 in a panicked state; the robot does it calmly and more thoroughly.

Knightscope created the K5 after being horrified by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Li said. Because there can never be an armed officer in every school, this could be an alternative. He said that the K5 is meant to make a perpetrator at least do a double take, if not leave entirely. And, if they don’t, the K5 can alert authorities and record the entire situation.

Knightscope expects that the K5 can cut crime in half in a designated area. To do so, it’s paired with an equally powerful tool: software. Li showed me a suite of tools K5 operators could have at their disposal, including being able to cut from a live feed of the data a robot is taking in at any moment.

Knightscope K5 robot software

Each robot would collect about 90 terabytes of data a year, Li said. Knightscope has the ability to pair that data with social media content and crime reports, outputting a map of crime filled with relevant data. Humans could then use the crunched data for further analysis or investigations.

Knightscope K5 robot software

Li referenced the Boston Marathon bombing as an instance where this type of surveillance would have been useful. Imagine if the police didn’t have to sort through hours of footage and thousands of tweets to sift out relevant data. This type of software could do it for them, and the K5 could augment the material they have to work with.

Knightscope will test the newest version of its robot, which it revealed in December, with a Silicon Valley company this year. The company will begin offering the robot on a large scale next year. Organizations will be able to “hire” the K5 for eight hour shifts for $1,000 a month. Li said the company already has a waiting list of at least 30 companies.

Farther out, the company may move into actually working in law enforcement. But, for now, it is focused on businesses.

Before the K5 begins roaming freely, Li said Knightscope will refine how it interacts with people. He said people have responded positively to the robot overall, but there are still some fears to quell. For example, K5s could livestream the data they collect to the public, instead of just to a private government database.

Li said the K5 protects us against greater fears, like being shot at. He placed its surveillance on the same level as an ATM camera or mall security.

“I think those fears are going to turn into what is already the majority: enthusiasm,” Li said.

  1. “Knightscope created the K5 after being horrified by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Li said. Because there can never be an armed officer in every school, this could be an alternative.”: And because this is AMURCA!!!, there can never be serious restrictions on the manufacturing, sale, or possession of machines for killing people like the ones used at Sandy Hook. Of course not! Only a Muslin Soshulist Not-Real-Amurcan would even suggest such a thing. Instead, let’s provide schools with $1000-a-month surveillance robots, so that the next Adam Lanza has to spend a round or two destroying a robot before killing the kids.

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  2. That’s pretty cool. You’re going to see the inevitable “are the police being replaced by robots?” fears, but that’s not what this is – it’s more like a really, really good surveillance camera.

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  3. Mike Mollick Tuesday, March 4, 2014

    It’s Chopping Mall all over again!

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  4. i dont understand how this would in any way have prevented Sandy Hook tragedy. This is offensive to be exploiting the Sandy Hook tragedy. Shameless – there is nothing presented to indicate this would have someone prevented that.

    And for Boston marathon. same applies Or is he saying that we would use this machine to automatically search twitter instead of having the police lieutant, manually search the tweets. are you serious?

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  5. Hmmm… I wonder how long it takes before someone throws a bag over its head so it can’t see, then puts in a metal box so it can’t phone home. Bye Bye Mr. Robot.

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