Security robot drowns itself

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K5 robot accidentally drowns itself in Washington. Photo Credit: Bilal Farooqui
K5 robot accidentally drowns itself in Washington. Photo Credit: Bilal Farooqui

WASHINGTON, DC- A security robot in Washington, DC’s Washington Harbour development fell down some stairs on Monday, landing itself into a watery grave. The security bot, a Knightscope K5, had only been patrolling in its assigned complex for a few days before it fell into the water. These K5 robots have been in service for several years, and Knightscope disclosed that the robots are currently working for 24 clients around the nation. The robots are equipped with cameras and sensors, and are designed to supplement or replace human security guards.

Sebastian Anthony at Ars Technica reports:

The automation revolution, where most of our jobs are replaced by robots and we spend the rest of our days floating around on rubber rings sipping piña coladas, has hit a snag: a Knightscope K5 security bot appears to have fallen down some stairs and drowned itself in a water feature.

The scene, which took place at the mixed-use Washington Harbour development in Washington DC, was captured by Bilal Farooqui on Twitter. One local office worker reported that the K5 robot had only been patrolling the complex for a few days. Knightscope said in a statement that the “isolated incident” was under investigation, and that a new robot would be delivered to Washington Harbour this week for free.

We first wrote about the Dalek-like K5 back in 2014. The first bots were deployed on campuses and shopping complexes near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. By December 2016 the company had 15 security bots actively deployed in California, and earlier in 2017 it disclosed that it is “presently deploying its technology with 24 clients” in “five states and three time zones.”

The K5, which is equipped with lots and lots of sensors, is ostensibly an interesting piece of high-tech kit. It has a 360-degree video camera array, sensitive microphones, air quality sensors, and even thermal imaging capabilities. The cameras can apparently scan up to 1,500 car number plates per minute; the microphones can detect gun shots and other notable sounds. Autonomous mobility is provided by a mix of lidar, radar, and the video camera array—but given that it missed the steps down into the Washington Harbour water feature, perhaps the software needs tweaking.

Knightscope’s K5 can’t yet make arrests, taser a criminal, or wade into a burning building, but it can phone the cops or fire off a loud siren. Basically, if your shopping centre or office complex had five patrolling security guards, the idea is to replace four of them with robots and leave the fifth in a central office that can respond to any issues.

Read more at Ars Technica.

Photos of the incident can be found at Bilal Farooqui’s Twitter page. Farooqui was the first person to report the incident.