That old fear about robots taking over humans' jobs has just started to get real. And one of the first casualties to go could be the security guards.
A Silicon Valley startup called Knightscope is developing a fleet of robots called K5 that can assume the patrol duties of a security guard. The robots, which look like a cross between the evil Dalek robots from the universe of 'Doctor Who' and EVE from 'Wall-E,' are equipped with a collection of cameras, sensors, electric motors and artificial intelligence to detect malicious activity and sound an alarm or alert a human security worker at the control center to dispatch a human to a certain location.
"This takes away the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work, and leaves the strategic work to law enforcement or private security, depending on the application," Stacy Stephens, Knightscope cofounder and vice president of sales and marketing, says.
The five-foot, 300-pound robots are equipped with several gadgets, including four microphones, four high-definition cameras, a license-plate detector, and a sensor that can measure temperature, air pressure and carbon dioxide levels in the environment. This allows the robots to make their way around and look out for suspicious activity on the Microsoft campus and another undisclosed company's headquarters in Silicon Valley for testing.
While the K5 robots have all these futuristic gadgets needed to autonomously patrol what their makers hope would include malls, offices, college campuses and local neighborhoods in the future, they don't have weapons to neutralize a criminal suspect or chase someone down. That doesn't mean, however, that anybody can mess with a K5.
If a K5 detects a person stopping in front of it, the robot will stop and move around the person, all while recording footage and transmitting the information to the browser-based software at the command center. If the person tries to detain the robot, it will warn the person with an "ominous" beep before going full blast with an "ear-piercing" alarm if the person does not halt his activities. This will also send a warning to the control center, allowing a human being to check out what is happening and speak to anyone who may be pestering the robot.
On the other hand, persons who need help can also ask these cute-but-not-so-friendly machines for help by pressing a large button situated on top of the robot's dome head so they can speak with a security guard or ask them to come to their location for help.
The K5 robots run on a battery that can last 24 hours on a single charge, and each robot immediately goes to the charging pod once it detects that its battery levels are low. Knightscope plans to charge $6.25 per hour for each robot, which is two times less than the hourly wage of patrol guards.
Even then, only seven K5 robots are in full development, which means it will likely take a long time before these machines running on artificial intelligence can replace the millions of security guards from their jobs. In the meantime, Knightscope still has plenty of work to do, including convincing humans that it is safe and secure to be around these Dalek-EVE crossbreeds.