All posts by Lucy Ingham

Rise of Robocop: the autonomous robot that predicts and prevents crime

Autonomous crime fighting robots could soon be roaming the streets, with the launch of the Knightscope K5 autonomous data machine.

Resembling a mix of WALL-E’s EVE and R2-D2, Knightscope can “see, feel, hear and smell” to collect data and indentify security threats.

In a move that is decidedly reminiscent of Minority Report, the data collected is analysed to predict potential crimes and an alert is pushed to notify the authorities.

The security system also makes use of crowdsourcing to fight crime. In the event of an alert, the local community is involved to contribute real-time information through social media, which will not only assist with crime prevention but the company hopes will also alleviate security concerns.

Knightscope K5 Autonomous Robot

The robot has an impressive range of data acquisition techniques to identify potential security risks. Both daytime and nightime video can be recorded in full 360°, and Knightscope is equipped with gesture recognition and optical character recognition.

It also has infrared capabilities and real-time 3D mapping, all of which combine to produce a mammoth amount of raw data – 90TB, equivalent to 5,000 Blu-Ray movies – each day.

This information is used to plot a real-time ‘heat map’ of crime hotspots in the area, and provide a direct and targeted response to crime.

Knightscope K5 Autonomous Robot predicts and prevents crime

Although the robot is still in development, the company has already attracted interest from several organisations, and has acquired at least one Silicon Valley-based customer to beta test the machine with over the next few months.

It also won’t be long before the robot starts to appear elsewhere. Knightscope vice president of marketing and sales Stacy Dean Stephens confirmed that the company already has “nearly 30 large enterprise customers on a growing wait list and anticipate[s] large-scale deployments in 2015”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, investors have been falling over themselves to grab a slice of Knightscope pie.

“Knightscope is also oversubscribed for its $1m seed round and will be pursuing a Series A financing later in the year,” explained Stephens.

The company is targeting $1bn+ eventual value, which may seem like a staggering figure but is almost modest when you realise that many security companies are worth tens of billions.

Weighing in at 136kg (300 pounds) and rising to 1.5m (60 inches) in height, Knightscope will be a very visible presence in communities. The company hopes it will be a friendly sight in neighbourhoods, and is describing the robot as a “new hometown hero”.

How many people will see the robot in a positive light remains to be seen, but it could have a similar impact on crime to a police presence, acting as a deterrent for criminals.

However, its recording capabilities could have the opposite effect. In many parts of the world there is a growing anti-surveillance mentality, which is playing out in resistance to new technologies that involve video recording. Most prominent of these is Google Glass, with at least one reported attack on a wearer occurring in the last month.


Images courtesy Knightscope.


Oceanic research steps into the future as sci-fi vessel SeaOrbiter gets funding

The world’s most futuristic-looking research vessel could soon be setting sail after it met its crowdfunding goal of €325,000.

Designed by marine architect Jacques Rougerie, SeaOrbiter will drift with oceanic currents to explore areas of the ocean that have never been studied before.

SeaOrbiter is designed to address the shortage of ocean research that has been undertaken. 90% of the ocean is still unexplored, and it is estimated that two thirds of marine species are yet to be discovered.

Looking like a moveable version of the Operation Hennessey Underwater SeaLab from the film the Life Aquatic, the vessel features a vertical wind turbine and solar panels to generate power; an 18.5m high lookout post; a diving room and wet lab; a modular laboratory, medical and fitness areas; underwater bunks and pressurised living quarters and a variety of underwater dive pits.

SeaOrbiter is also kitted out with a range of support vessels and subsea exploration devices, including a diving drone capable of exploring the oceanic abyss at depths up to 6,000m – far deeper than it is possible for humans to travel.

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First and foremost, SeaOrbiter is a research vessel with the capability to gather and analyse data. However, it will also serve as a multimedia communications platform, churning out educational programming that has been entirely shot and edited onboard. And that’s not all: the pressurised living areas also enable SeaOrbiter to function as a space simulator.

The vessel is uniquely able to house a crew of 18 – 22 people to live onboard for long periods of time in remote areas of the ocean. Typically expeditions would last for three to six months, although the crew could remain onboard for much longer if required.

The crew would be made up of six ship operators, four scientific researchers, two multimedia operators and six ‘aquanauts’ developing research programmes.  But they won’t just be adrift and unsupported – a shore-based team will remain in constant touch to collect data and ensure everything goes smoothly.

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In a sense, SeaObiter has been more than forty years in the making. The vessel’s designer and champion Jacques Rougerie has a long-standing background in marine design, and has been developing undersea structures for decades.

His 1973 project with NASA to develop an underwater research village has been instrumental in our view of undersea living, and he has produced several landmark vessels for oceanographic exploration. Rougerie seems to have been working towards SeaOrbiter for most of his career, but only now has the technology come of age.

The project was funded through French crowdfunding website Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, with 664 people handing over between €10 and €40,000+ to raise a total of €344,650. In a video uploaded to the SeaOrbiter website, Rougerie thanked his supporters. He said: “We registered more than 600 contributors, including 20 big donors and one family who highly contributed to it”.

Now SeaOrbiter has received funding the challenge of building it can start. Rougerie expects construction to take two years, so by 2016 we could be following the launch of this remarkable vessel.


Images courtesy of SeaOrbiter.