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.


Drones make their catwalk debut at Milan Fashion Week

Drones have begun to sneak into our lives in many ways, but until now they have not found their way into fashion. That changed yesterday when luxury fashion house Fendi used a drone to provide fans with coverage of their fall/winter 2014-15 collection.

The collection, which was showcased at Milan Fashion Week, was viewable live from Fendi’s website via two streams: one a professionally shot and cut stream and one a rather shaky, fuzzy feed from the drone.

A partnership between Fendi and Google, the drone stream felt more like a proof-of-concept than an impressive technological showcase, but received a surprisingly positive response from both fans and industry professionals alike.

For avid fashion fans wishing they were actually at the show, it seems that the drone did a better job of conveying the atmosphere than the regular video feed.

Writing in fashion mag Birdee, Chloe Sargeant explained: “The drones flew over models’ and guests’ heads, giving an online audience a birds eye view of each look front and back, as well as the venue, runway and vibe of the entire show.”

But it seems to be more about the concept of drones than the reality of what they produced.

The Guardian quoted Lowe & Partners trend forecaster Zoe Lazarus explaining this phenomenon: “Drones feel edgy and futuristic – they appeal to that vision of a cyborg future. Creatively they are brilliant, because they can be manoeuvred into places where people can’t.

“This is a bit of a coup for Fendi… Live streams have become quite standard now at fashion shows, so this is a way to up the ante and get social media coverage.”

While the video quality wasn’t fantastic, the Fendi show could mark the start of drones being used to cover exclusive events with large public followings.

Concerts and festivals could make use of drones to provide new video coverage options for fans, and drones could even find their way onto sports grounds to provide new camera angles for avid fans.

But as is often the case, this could well become a premium service, particularly in sports such as football where teams are looking to generate as many additional revenue streams as possible.

Whether paid-for or free, drone-generated streams will have to improve considerably if they are to reach a level of mass appeal among fans and consumers. For now, they remain a gimmick to be utilised by companies looking to boost their media coverage.


Image courtesy of Fendi.