Knightscope Unveils a Robot Security Guard for All-Terrain Patrols

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 - 7:45PM
Technology
Robotics
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 - 7:45PM
Knightscope Unveils a Robot Security Guard for All-Terrain Patrols
Facebook/Knightscope
Robot security guards aren't necessarily a perfected technology just yet. Among the stories of robots awkwardly tripping in laboratories, or drowning themselves at malls, we're not yet at the point where human mall cops can be adequately replaced by cold, emotionless machines.

The big mistake that robot security firm Knightscope (who created that drowning mall robot) seems to have made thus far is shaping all of its creations like Daleks. Sure, these metal monsters appear scary when well-groomed British "doctors" are fleeing in terror from them, but in practice, these things can't handle stairs, don't move particularly fast, and can be easily kicked over, should anyone want to incapacitate them.

In other words, wobbly trashcan-shaped robots are never really going to cut it in the security field.




Enter the K7; a new form of robot security that seems to have taken onboard many of the lessons learned during Knightscope's previously blunders. Sleek, large, and wheeled, this new robot looks far more capable of staying upright in a tight situation, moving quickly when necessary, and, crucially, looks imposing enough to scare the crap out of any criminal it may run into on its patrol.

Although it should be noted that Knightscope has also unveiled a new trashcan Dalek robot that can detect bombs in airports, but this doesn't look nearly as cool as the K7, so it's not getting the same level of attention. You can see all of them in action in Knightscope's announcement video below; skip to about 7:50 for a look at the K7:



Unfortunately, while the K7 looks like it's ready to chase down enemies and give them a stern talking-to, the four-wheel approach does come with some of the same drawbacks as other robots Knightscope has designed. The robot is built with an all-terrain flexibility in mind, but not matter how much suspension it might have, it's going to struggle to go up and down stairs gracefully. Plus, should this thing happen to accidentally run over someone's foot, it's going to be a much bigger deal.
 
It may be that the sensors Knightscope are currently using just don't live up to the difficult task of making a machine that can actually navigate a variety of real-world environments. Certainly, Panasonic is currently trying to solve the challenges of scanning and mapping terrain for a robot to walk on, with plans for a LiDAR-esque sensor system that would allow a robot to adjust gracefully from stone to grassy footing, as a patrol bot would no doubt need to be able to do.

The K7 is a good step towards fixing Knightscope's current navigation issues, but it remains to be seen whether the four-wheel design will prove any more adaptable than the tin can look most of their robots sport. We're currently still waiting for the technology for more flexible, adaptable robot bodies to be created, and in the meantime, it might take a while to find the perfect design for a solid, unflappable security bot.


One thing is definitely certain, though: get enough of these things together at night, and it looks an awful lot like a terrifying dystopian cyberpunk movie.
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