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A Crime-Fighting Robot That Looks Like R2-D2 is Patrolling 10th Avenue

By Maya Rajamani | January 19, 2017 2:44pm
 A crime-detecting robot rolled down the sidewalk in front of Marquee nightclub Thursday afternoon.
Knightscope Robot
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CHELSEA — Step aside, RoboCop

A crime-detecting robot rolled down the sidewalk in front of Marquee nightclub on 10th Avenue Thursday morning, emitting futuristic noises and drawing in curious passersby. 

The R2-D2-style robot comes equipped with sensors that can detect “concerns or threats” in the vicinity and alert authorities, according to Knightscope, the machine's designer.

The company is reportedly on an investment tour for its “mini-IPO,” and it leased a space next to the nightclub for its meetings with investors and clients, said Stacy Dean Stephens, the co-founder and vice president of marketing and sales for the company.

“It’s a security robot,” Stephens explained. “It’s meant to augment the way that security guards actually do their work.”

The company’s team was shooting video of the robot on the sidewalk, which it plans to use to “engage investors,” he said.

The robots can capture and send video to a “backend security network” and detect sounds like glass breaking, in addition to other capabilities, TechCrunch reported.

The 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was one of the driving forces behind its creation, noted Stephens, who said he formerly worked as a police officer in Dallas.

“The only way for somebody to get into [a] situation [like Sandy Hook] quicker is with actionable intelligence, and the only way to gain actionable intelligence is with some form of intelligent eyes and ears,” he said. “We built our robot to be that intelligent set of eyes and ears.”

The robots reportedly courted controversy last summer, when a five-foot, 300-pound machine knocked a toddler down and injured his foot while patrolling a shopping center in Palo Alto, California.

They've also raised concerns about privacy, but “it’s already been proven and accepted that there is no expectation of privacy in public spaces” from a law-enforcement perspective, Stephens said.

The company is also working to equip the robots with gun-detection capabilities, he added.

Reaction to the robot Thursday was “pretty much the same as it is everywhere,” Stephens continued.

“[People] want to know what it is, they want to understand what its capabilities are, and most everybody who sees it is quite thrilled to see it, I think,” he said.

“We all grew up in this age of people saying we’re going to have robots running around someday, and now we’re actually living it.”