Crime-Fighting Robots Patrol the Streets of Silicon Valley

They look more like set dressing for a Star Wars film than law enforcers, but the K5 security robots are now patrolling areas of Silicon Valley, Calif.

“The vast majority of people see it and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s so cute,'” Stacy Stephens, founder of robot-manufacturer Knightscope, told SF CBS. “We’ve had people go up and hug it, and embrace it for whatever reason.”

The unarmed robots stand about five feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. Nearby residents are most likely to see the robots deployed in corporate parks, college campuses and open air malls.

They operate on their own and are programmed to avoid confrontation by going around any obstacles, functioning similarly to Google’s self-driving car.

“It has a LIDAR (light image detection and ranging) that’s doing a 3D map,” Stephens said. “It will geofence itself and give itself a perimeter within which it will operate. And it moves around within that perimeter freely and it chooses its own path.”

The K5 bots work more as crime deterrents than crime fighters. They don’t chase down criminals or make arrests. They send a video recording to a worker watching from the control room. If confronted, the robot will chirp a warning that gets louder and louder if the threat persists. While they don’t perform all the tasks of a standard beat officer, Stephens is confident they’ll work well to deter crime.

“The first thing that’s going to happen is the burglar is going to spot the robot. And unfortunately, criminals are inherently lazy. They’re not looking for something that’s going to be confrontational, they’re looking for something that’s going to be an easy target,” said Stephens. “They see the robot and maybe they move down to the next place down the street.”

Knightscope says they have a long waiting list of companies hoping to order a K5.

“Soon you will see them everywhere,” Stephens said.