In the future, mall cops will look like R2-D2S

Say hello to the K5 Autonomous Data Machine, a mobile surveillance robot that could soon be prowling malls, schools, and corporation foyers near you. Privacy groups are calling the California-built robot "R2-D2's evil twin."

William Santana Li founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook. "You are never going to have an armed officer in every school," he said to the New York Times.

This is the K5 promo video:

K5 is equipped with the following features:

  • GPS locator
  • LIDAR 3D mapping
  • 360 degree HD video
  • Thermal imaging camera
  • Optical behavioral analysis
  • Audio recording
  • Biological, chemical, and radiation detection
  • Proximity sensors

The device, which is still in the developmental stages, will also have a limited amount of autonomy, including the ability to follow a preplanned route. Eventually, it will be wirelessly connected to a centralized data server, making it possible for K5 to recognize faces, license plates and other suspicious anomalies.

The New York Times reports on the concerns:

But what is for some a technology-laden route to safer communities and schools is to others an entry point to a post-Orwellian, post-privacy world.

"This is like R2D2's evil twin," said Marc Rotenberg, the director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, a privacy rights group based in Washington.

And the addition of such a machine to the labor market could force David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, to rethink his theory about how technology wrecks the middle class.

The minimum wage in the United States is $7.25, and $8 in California. Coming in substantially under those costs, Knightscope's robot watchman service raises questions about whether artificial intelligence and robotics technologies are beginning to assault both the top and the bottom of the work force as well.

More at NYT.

Image: Knightscope.