Knightscope security robot range

Knightscope unveils new security robots to join fleet

Image credit: Knightscope

An autonomous outdoor patrol buggy and a security scanner are the latest additions to the company’s portfolio of robots, all intended to assist security operations.

Influenced by the tragedies of the Sandy Hook and Boston Marathon mass killings, Knightscope hopes to cut crime rates in communities using autonomous security robots that can move and collect video, audio and other data from their surroundings.

“Knightscope autonomous data machines (ADMs) are autonomous robots that provide a commanding but friendly physical security presence,” the company website says.

Knightscope has unveiled a new, fully autonomous robot called K7, which takes the form of a white, contoured buggy ten feet long. It is intended to handle rougher terrain than tarmac, such as grass, gravel or sand, and rather than acting as a ‘security guard’ will slowly patrol large areas such as airfields.

Most significantly, the K7 is capable of detecting weapons in a crowd.

The version of K7 revealed this week has a maximum speed of 3mph, although future versions of the robot could move significantly faster.

The beta prototype is due to begin shipping in 2018.

A companion machine revealed alongside K7 is a stationary security scanner intended for use at airports, hospitals and other high-security buildings, in advance of other security scanners. Dubbed K1, it comes in the form of a rounded tower with “concealed weapon and radiation detection” capabilities based on millimetre-wave technology.

Knightscope offers the security robots to rent for events – as well as for sale – at approximately £5 an hour, undercutting the wages of a human security guard in most developed countries.

Although Knightscope’s security robots, including K7, are capable of collecting extensive data – including video footage and car license plates – from their surroundings, storing this data and sending alerts for human assistance, unlike a human security guard, it is not capable of apprehending suspects.

The robots’ data feeds – which are sent to Knightscope and the contractor – are stored and available to monitor at all times.

The K1 and K7 are preceded by the K3, an indoor security robot, and K5, an outdoor security robot. These autonomous machines, which take rounded, penguin-like forms, are capable of navigating around people, using video cameras, microphones, thermal cameras and other sensors to search for danger.

According to Knightscope, they are capable of detecting some crimes, as well as fires and intruders in areas such as schools or shopping centres.

Recently, the misadventures of K5 robots have catapulted Knightscope into the headlines. A K5 robot working in Mountain View, California, was assaulted and pushed over by an inebriated man. The assault on the robot was reported by the K5, aiding the perpetrator’s arrest.  Another K5 robot reportedly ran over a toddler’s feet in a shopping centre, an incident described as “freakish” by the company.

In July this year, a Knightscope security robot working in a Washington DC office block drowned itself in a fountain after falling on the stairs that descended into the water feature.

Eventually, the company wants to develop fully automated crime-predicting robots equipped with facial-recognition technology, capable of matching human faces caught in live footage to those stored in national criminal databases. This ambition has led to fear that the roll out of Knightscope and other security robots could result in mass surveillance.

Given that the K-range robots have been defeated in high-profile standoffs with water features and a drunk man, however, it may be a while before these robots can be seriously perceived as a sinister threat to our civil liberties.

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