K5 security robot resembles a non-weaponized Dalek

Technology start-up Knightscope last week debuted a prototype security robot that looks a lot like a Dalek (of Doctor Who infamy.) The K5 Autonomous Data Machine stands five feet high, rolls around on wheels, can sense a variety of potential security threats through an array of sensors, and can instantly notify the police in the event of an emergency. It was shown at the Plug and Play Winter Expo this week, gaining a top-three mention from a panel of 101 Silicon Valley judges.

The K5 was noted for its imposing yet "friendly" presence. (It does not nor has it ever, to our knowledge, uttered the word "Exterminate.") Its abilities and assets include optical character recognition, 360-degree video capture, thermal imaging, microphones for high-quality audio, air quality sensors for detecting chemical and biological threats, an ultrasonic sensor, infrared sensor, radar, and lidar for 3D mapping. Together these sensors allow it to move along a human-set course during normal patrol, but somewhat deviate when necessary based on the data it receives from the environment.

A standout feature in terms of social impact is its face recognition capabilities. The K5 will be able to link up with an off-site data center to reference known faces against actively scanned ones in its vicinity. According to Knightscope, the company can push a safety alert and live-stream any video a K5 receives to law enforcement agencies as well as to the public. This of course is in the name of transparency and crime-fighting.

Knightscope co-founder William Santana Li is leading the media charge on the K5. His loyalties are squarely on the "security" end of the security-versus-privacy debate dichotomy. As he told VentureBeat today:

Privacy concerns are not what puts people on edge. What puts people on edge is being shot at. It is not okay to have these ongoing concerns at work, at school, at the mall, or a movie theater. We are working to address a massive issue that impacts everyone and everything, including your taxes, municipal budgets, housing prices, financial markets, and society as a whole. Crime has a $1 trillion negative economic impact on the U.S.

Speaking of economics, another concern rattling around the Web is the potential impact of K5-like machines on the job market. Currently 1.3 million human security guards work in the US. The New York Times reports the K5 will be rent-able for $6.25 an hour.

It must be noted that Li was also involved in Carbon Motors, the firm hired by a local government in Indiana last June to develop and manufacture a line of purpose-built police cruisers. That project went bankrupt to the tune of $28.7 million, much to the chagrin of the taxpayers there. That's not to say the K5 project is a foregone conclusion. It might well succeed and be developed for private and public use — much to the chagrin of privacy and human job security advocates.

SOURCE: New York Times