Robots are increasingly replacing humans in a variety of mundane tasks, like bolting a car together or making lollipops, but now they are moving into the security business.
Microsoft recently installed a fleet of 5-feet-tall, 300-pound robots to protect its Silicon Valley campus. The robots are packed with HD security cameras and sensors to take in their organic, protein-based surroundings. There’s also an artificial intelligence on board that can sound alarms when the robot notices something awry. It can also read license plates and cross-reference them to see if they’re stolen.
The K5 robots come from a California company called Knightscope, which calls the robots “autonomous data machines” that provide a “commanding but friendly presence.” Sounds like something a robot manufacturer would say.
Let’s be honest though, the robots look pretty damn cool. They’re like modern versions of R2-D2.
Thankfully—or sadly, depending on how you look at it—the K5 robots don’t have any weapons on them. All they can do is assess a situation, sound an alarm to defuse it, or call a human security officer to the scene. There are, however, plans equip the robots with tasers sometime in the future.
Microsoft’s new protectors are fairly autonomous. A single charge will last 24 hours, and if the robot notices that its battery is getting low, it will return to a charging port and plug itself in. It can fully recharge in 20 minutes, which is pretty insane.
There are plans to one day expand the use of Knightscope’s robots and have them patrol the streets as part of human police units. We can’t even imagine what would happen if Elon Musk heard about this.
Update 6:54pm CT, Nov. 24: Microsoft has recently put up a blog post clarifying exactly what’s going on with these patrol bots: While the bots are for security, they aren’t being used at Microsoft. At a recent Microsoft event, Knightscope showed off its K5 Autonomous Data Machines. The blog post described the K5 as “a security robot that provides a commanding but friendly physical presence for onsite security.”
The bots, while hosted at Microsoft, are not part of the campus’ security. “At Microsoft, we love robots of all shapes and sizes. However, we do not have robots providing security on our campus.” Hopefully in the future, these bots will find employment.