Egg-shaped Robots Patrol on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus



Earlier this year, we have reported that the California-based startup company, Knightscope, was building a prototype of K5 security robot that meant to take on security patrol work.  K5, the five-foot-tall (roughly 152 cm), 300-pound (136 kg) robot, has the learning and analytic capacities to recognize faces and license plates, detect shifts in temperature as well as carbon dioxide levels.  It can immediately alert authorities if detecting some suspicious activities in the neighborhood.


Recently, on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus, you can already see four of these guys patrolling at night, guarding the staff inside the buildings.





The K5 rolls on 3 wheels and is equipped with several microphones, high-definition cameras, GPS/laser rangefinder, facial and license plate recognition system, thermal imaging and weather sensors, as well as a rechargeable battery inside.  Each recharge takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and lasts for 24 hours.  It can also be shown its patrol parameters and surrounding environments with the use of a remote controller before its first patrol, and then it can start mapping and learning from here.  It can also navigate its route and avoid collision with pedestrians or obstacles on the roads.


When someone tries to block its way or outright harass it, the K5 will first sound a shrilling alarm and, if the harassment doesn't stopped, it will immediately contact its nearby robotic “colleagues” along with remote security centers via Wi-Fi or a wireless network.  An operator in the center will then check out what is happening from the robot's sensors, even talk to the offender in question if necessary.  On the other hand, this monitoring feature can also be used in an emergency situation, wherein people can seek immediate assistance by pushing a button on the K5.  


It’s been suggested that in the future, the K5 could act more proactively to guard personal safety; for example, students staying out late may wish to use an App to call a nearby K5 robot to escort them safely home through the dark campus.





The major incentives to develop security robots come from the dangerous and monotonous nature of patrol work, and the high personnel turnover rate in this line of jobs.  Of course, cost-efficiency is a main cause, too—a K5 robot charges US$6.25 per hour, which is less than one half of a common U.S. security guard’s hourly wage.


The K5 robot is estimated to test run in several U.S. companies in the first half of 2015.  However, according to a journalist witnessed a K5 at work on site in the Microsoft's campus, one of the major problems with the present prototype was that it didn’t seem to be able to detect the edge of the sidewalk properly, and couldn’t right itself back on “feet” once it toppled.  From this angle, the more than 1 million people who are currently employed as security guards in the U.S. should probably be able to rest easy for a while yet.



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