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Security robot falls victim to bullies

A patrolling security robot in San Francisco has become the victim of discrimination and violence.

A Knightscope K5 was deployed by the San Francisco branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to patrol the streets surrounding its building in the Mission District of the city. The SPCA has seen an increase in crime in the vicinity since the local area became a makeshift camp for the city’s homeless population.


Apparently resentful of the patrolling artificial entity, the newly arrived local population have targeted the robot – a cross between a Dalek and Disney’s EVE – by kicking and knocking it over, dousing its sensors with barbecue sauce, and according to some reports, actually smearing it with faeces.

Commenting on the ‘attacks’ Krista Maloney, the SPCA’s media relations manager said: “In the last year we’ve experienced a great deal of car break-ins, theft, and vandalism that has made us concerned about the security and safety of the people on our campus.”

Hoping to improve the safety of employees, the shelter deployed the Knightscope robot, but the K5’s presence served only to anger the local community and incite violence. People also took to social media to severely criticise the robot and accuse the SPCA of using the K5 specifically against the homeless.

The initiative was defended by Maloney: “The security robot that we’ve been using on a pilot basis has been very effective at deterring these criminal incidents. The device helps us prevent crime; it doesn’t attempt to remove homeless people from the sidewalk.”

The SPCA has since been forced to remove the 400-pound K5 from the streets to avoid a $1,000-a-day fine for operating it in public areas without a permit.

Knightscope’s robots certainly seemed to be dogged by controversy. Not so long ago in Silicon Valley one of their units knocked over a toddler, and another fell into a pond in Washington after missing some stairs.

Having followed the antics of Rosie the security robot, here at Storm Operative Security we will continue to keep an eye on the unfolding progress of security robots while smiling to ourselves in the knowledge that an automaton is yet to be a match for the professional, friendly and human face of manned security.


Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Knightscope


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