Maybe someday it will menacingly order citizens to drop their weapons — or else — a la Robocop.
But for now, the Knightscope crime-fighting robots, demonstrated for the University of Texas at Arlington Police Department and the media on Thursday, are limited to less aggressive tasks like scanning license plates for unauthorized vehicles or alerting authorities to people in restricted areas.
Or, for mall bots, telling shoppers how to get to Macy’s. And they’re always videotaping and collecting data, including markers that help identify nearby wireless devices. Those latter skills helped solve a robbery recently, said Knightscope co-founder and former UTA student Stacy Stephens
“Long-term, our ultimate goal is to be able to predict and prevent crime,” he said, by analyzing past data with real-time, on-site information collected by the robots. “Then maybe we have the ability to put the robots into a patrol state where they are hitting those hotspots.”
The demonstration model rolling slowly around the halls of UTA’s College Park Center on Thursday morning was the Knightscope K3, a 4-foot-4, 300-pound, bullet-shaped robot, which looked like a slower version of the motorized — and creepy — tackling dummies showing up on more NFL practice fields.
And of course, comparisons with whistling and chirping R2D2, the more charming Star Wars utility droid, are inescapable.
Knightscope, based in Mountain View, Calif., has about two dozen robots employed through leases to about a dozen clients, all in California, including Microsoft, the Westfield Shopping Centers, Juniper Network and the Sacramento Kings.
The demonstration was the company’s first in Texas. The UTA police hosted the event and “definitely have an interest” in the product, though no decisions have been made, said Assistant Chief Patrick Bridges.
“We’re always looking for new ideas and new technology that will make our jobs safer and easier and protect our communities,” Bridges said. “It’s amazing technology.”
The robots, encased in a lightweight composite material Stephens called “similar to a Corvette,” roam freely at up to 3 mph within the confines of a programmed “geo-fence” that defines their beats.