Over 25 years ago, sardonic filmmaker Paul Verhoeven imagined a future in which justice was served by the cold steel of humanoid robots. Thankfully, in the real world, we’ve yet to see fleets of Robocop-like robots telling pedestrians that they “have 20 seconds to comply,” but even the tongue-in-cheek Verhoeven couldn’t have imagined that his guesses about futuristic security would emerge in the form of the Knightscope K5.
After being teased in a profile in last week’s MIT Technology Review, Knightscope’s patrolling robot product received a public video unveiling on San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX on Tuesday. The squat K5 model, shown wheeling around the company’s Mountain View, CA parking lot, looked more like a Dalek or a Star Wars droid than Robocop‘s Peter Weller. The five-foot-tall K5 comes equipped with four cameras spread at 90 degree angles from each other, along with a weather sensor, a microphone array, a separate “license plate camera,” a GPS sensor, and a Wi-Fi-enabled system to transmit live video and keep track of other nearby K5s.
In the KPIX video, the 300-pound behemoth appeared to move at a rate of no more than five miles per hour, and it was even shown noticing and side-stepping any nearby humans in its patrol path. Knightscope co-founder Stacy Stephens confirmed that the K5 is not equipped with weapons or any other means of dispatching crooks; instead, he described this robot as a crime deterrent (while simultaneously suggesting that people think it looks “cute” and want to hug it). We struggle to agree with its usefulness as a deterrent; having played our fair share of stealthy video games, we can’t help but feel like we’ve trained for years to dodge and avoid exactly this kind of slow, awkward-looking artificial intelligence.