You may have seen this story, which we shared on Twitter recently, but if not then it’s a very entertaining slice of (robot) life, unless you actually are a robot of course...
A firm in the US “employs” security robots, made by a firm called Knightscope (whose share price, I suspect, was not improved by what I’m about to describe).
These security robots are equipped with a range of high-tech instruments - including face-recognition systems, high-definition video capture, infrared and ultrasonic sensors. They are in theory devoid of the failings that messy and occasionally screwed-up human beings bring to the generally relatively boring world of facility security. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have problems…
Prior to the most recent incident, of which more later, one of these robots got into an altercation with a drunken man earlier this year. It was claimed he wanted to “test” the robot, and certainly dealing with drunks should be part and parcel of any security guards training. The drunk attacked the robot and the latter, naturally, raised the alarm. The man was arrested and the robot, which (who?) had suffered only minor injuries (OK, “a few scratches”) was soon out of care and back on duty.
Then, a 16 month old child was knocked over by one of these robots in a shopping mall. The robot did not stop to enquire after the child as a human might reasonably have been expected to do and the incident was duly recorded on social media.
However, these two incidents pale into insignificance beside the most recent, where one of the robots fell into a pond and, according to the BBC, suffered “a watery demise”. Other media outlets were not so kind, generally describing the robot as having committed suicide because it was bored. Intriguingly, some suggested that the reason for the robot falling into the water was that it failed to negotiate the steps at the side of the pool. Steps have always been an issue for robots, from the days of the Daleks onwards.
Furthermore, upon investigating this story on the web, I found that this is not the first instance of a bored robot committing hari kiri. In 2013, a household robot in Austria, seemingly fed up with the mundaneness and repetitious tasks it was instructed to do, “made its way along the work surface where it pushed a cooking pot out of the way and basically that was the end of it”.
What next? Counselling for robots? Clearly, the remarkable strides made in recent years in robotics and AI, impressive though they have been, do have a little way to go yet!
Michael Phair, Be-IT