9/7/2016 – Could Robots Replace Us?

shiny new mall cops

Could Robots Replace Us? A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope has introduced a range of robots that eradicate the need for some security guards in workplaces and public spaces. These security robots are called the K3 and K5 Autonomous Data Machines. The robots resemble a “Doctor Who” Dalek (enemy), or “Weebles” (Weebles waddle but they don’t fall down).  When the idea of a security robot comes to mind, you might think of robots like Robocop or Atlas, rather than Pepper. 

Knightscope was originally founded in response to the tragic events at Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon. The founders believed that with a unique combination of hardware and software, they could greatly reduce crime by as much as 50%. They explain their rationale as thus:

The human attention span during monotonous, boring tasks is only 5-10 minutes. And with employee turnover rates as high as 400%, the security industry is rightfully seeking innovative solutions. Knightscope’s primary goal is to allow customers to utilize the best of Silicon Valley to put machines to work in those routine, monotonous and sometimes dangerous situations, thus freeing up humans to do the more hands-on and strategic activities. Corporate campuses, data centers, shopping malls and big-box retail stores are among the many customers already engaged today (think employee safety, corporate espionage, rogue networks and asset protection).”

They also state: This technology changes everything and is especially needed as the world continues to become more and more volatile.”

Utilizing numerous sensors, lasers and a significant amount of code, the K3 and K5 can roam a geo-fenced area autonomously either randomly or based on a particular patrolling algorithm. The K5 is able to detect a vehicle backing up or tailing the machine in a parking lot setting. Further, the robots are programmed to detect suspicious and unusual behavior and can recall up to 300 number plates a minute, whilst monitoring traffic. The robots are equipped with a panic button for emergency scenarios when a real person is required.

Recently we’ve seen a scenario where a robot was used to detonate a bomb in response to a police killing, ultimately leading to the death of Micah Johnson who killed five police officers and wound seven others in Dallas. This makes it possible that robots will be deployed in future public emergency scenarios.

Will robots create unemployment? The need for skilled engineers, developers and control center operatives to manage robots on the field and analyze data they generate will create jobs, at least in the short term. Perhaps the future may not be controlled by robots, but rather, by humans with the assistance of robots.

READWRITE, Cate Lawrence, Contributing Writer

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