R2-D2? Dalek? Actually It’s A Pre-Cog Robocop

Look out all you mall cops, there’s a new patrol officer in Silicon Valley—one that rolls along on three wheels and uses sensors and social media to help fight crime.

Robotics company Knightscope recently took the wraps off the beta prototype of its K5 robot. Built on a Segway personal transport, the dome-topped unit collects data as it happens, assesses if there is a problem based on set parameters, and reports any inconsistencies to officials.

This crimefighter is about as threatening as R2-D2 and a bit less intimidating than the Daleks in Doctor Who. The K5 carries no weapons, but it decked out with a GPS locator, laser-assisted 3D mapping, 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging camera, night vision camera, optical character recognition, behavioral analysis, audio recording, proximity sensors, and biological, chemical and radiation detection.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Knightscope CEO Bill Li noted that the units could be used in schools, malls, neighborhood watches, and special events. The robot could, for example, run license plates while rolling through a parking lot or identify passersby through facial recognition.

90 TB Per Machine Per Year

Each K5 unit gathers approximately 90 terabytes of information per machine per year. That data is cross referenced with local ordinances, government rules, and business information and then compared with crowdsourced social data information. If something doesn't seem right, the robot sends an alert to the appropriate authorities.

Knightscope claims it's taken precautions to guard against errors of robotic judgment and privacy violations. A K5 unit won't actually take any action itself; it's more of a roving sensor that sends its collected information back to security or law-enforcement officials, who then have to choose whether a given situation requires a response. This also provides an important feedback loop for the K5’s predictive analytics software.

Li said his goal is to show that the K5 robot can cut crime by half in a specific area. The company is offering the K5 as a pay-by-the project service. Prices start at $1,000 a month, which translates to $6.25 an hour. Currently, a dozen customers have signed up for test runs in 2014.

While 300 pounds is not easy to pushover, one can’t help thinking that the K5 could be tricked or at least outrun like our favorite mall cop, Paul Blart.

Photo courtesy of Knightscope