Knightscope, the robot security company famous for the R2-D2-like machine that recently drowned itself in a mall’s pool, has just unveiled an off-roading robot.
The Silicon Valley company calls this model the K7. With its four wheels and high clearance, the K7 — which measures in at more than five feet tall and nearly seven feet long — is intended for diverse terrain and uneven topography. It’s a machine customers can deploy in varied outdoor environments.
Like Knightscope’s earlier models, the K7 is fitted with sound, video, and other sensors. The robot will be rented out to places like malls, stores, and movie sets to deter crime or generally shady behavior. The company currently has 44 machines contracted out to 32 clients in eight different states. They hope to increase this to 100 machines by the end of 2017.
The very presence of these robots might deter some wrongdoing, but they aren’t nearly as smart or as skilled as conventional human security guards. During the infamous robot “drowning” at a mall in Washington D.C., real security guards had to wade into the coin-filled pool to rescue the hapless Knightscope robot.
Still, the security company has high aspirations for its fledgling robots.
“We’re developing technology in the long run to be able to predict and prevent crime,” Knightscope CEO William Santana Li told The Register. “Crime has a one trillion dollar negative economic impact on the United States every year. It’s a hidden tax we all pay in blood, tears, and treasure. And our long-term ambition is to literally be able to make the United States the safest country in the world, changing everything for everyone.”
It’s unclear how Knightscope plans to “predict” crimes. (The mention brings to mind the dystopian notion of “precrime,” first coined by sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick and later popularized in the movie Minority Report, in which a preCrime agent played by Tom Cruise is accused of committing a future crime.)
Such crime prediction would require Knightscope to develop a sophisticated machine-learning AI system for its robots to foresee where and how crimes might occur. It’s plausible that future surveillance robots could rove around places where there’s been an increase in theft, but beyond that, crime prediction and targeting of “precrimes” opens up a massive can of legal issues.
For now, Knightscope is probably focused on improving their robots’ navigating skills. In 2016, a five-foot tall, 300-pound Knightscope K5 robot ran over a toddler at a mall in California.