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Knightscope Security Robots Are Keeping Microsoft Campuses Safe (and They Look Really Scary)

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While Daleks "know no fear" and "must not fear," the cold, calculating robots from the Dr. Who series don't exist in the real world yet and Microsoft has had to settle on the next best thing for securing its campuses: the K5.

Microsoft is the first company in Silicon Valley to dispatch a fleet of the K5 policing robots. Each 5-foot tall, 300-pound K5 is equipped with arrays of high-definition camera, sensors, debilitating sirens, Wi-Fi and artificial intelligence.

The squat policing robots are the product of Knightscope, a startup firm from Mountain View, Calif. William Santana Li, chairman and CEO of Knightscope, sees a world in which his company's policing robots move out of the private sector and start working alongside law enforcement officers.

"Technology and robotics are making the concept of Precision Policing -- a systematic, proactive and almost precognitive approach to ensuring public safety -- a real possibility," said Li in a March blog post.

The K5s can use their sensors to track down threats and their Wi-Fi connection to call in bipedal backup, aka security guards. Their AI and camera rigs enable the K5s to do a good deal of profiling, scanning license plates and faces to compare against databases available to them over Wi-Fi.

The K5 robots are only tools to surveil, assess and report suspicious activity, for now at least. There are plans in the works that could see the K5s brandishing and using Taser guns -- "you are being neutralized."

The K5s sensors enable them to recognize and analyze alphanumeric text, heat signatures, sounds, air quality and infrared light. The robots are equipped with both radar and Lidar to help them make measurements, while GPS helps them maintain their bearing and report their positions. Lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging, is a remote-sensing technology used to measure distance by illuminating a target with a laser and then analyzing the reflected light.

The robots are fully autonomous and can even refuel at a charging station without the guidance of humans. The K5s leverage their machine learning abilities for predictive analytics, analyzing and accounting for risks in real time.

To keep people assured that the machines aren't abusing their abilities or beginning to learn too much, Knightscope plans to let people keep an eye on the machines by making the K5s' video feeds available to the public online.

"I believe robots are the perfect tools to handle the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work in order to free up humans to more judiciously address activities requiring higher-level thinking, hands-on encounters, or tactical planning," states Li.

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