Back in 2003, former Ford executive William Santana Li and former police officer Stacey Dean founded Carbon Motors, a company that designed a purpose-built diesel police car that recently filed for bankruptcy. But they're at it again, this time with a new company and a new invention that looks eerily similar to R2D2: a robotic security guard.
Their new Sunnyvale, California-based company is called Knightscope. Its product: the K5 Autonomous Data Machine. It's the fruit of the company's development of "technology that will predict and prevent crime with an innovative combination of hardware, software and social engagement," according to its website. K5 will be equipped with infrared-capable video cameras, microphones, radar, lidar (laser-based "radar") and thermal, air-quality and ultrasonic sensors. The data collected from all that equipment is then processed by the company's predictive analytics engine with help from "business, government and crowdsourced data sets." In a nutshell, K5 was designed to predict and prevent crime.
According to a report by The New York Times, Li says, "We founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook... You are never going to have an armed officer in every school." K5 can patrol school hallways as well as Silicon Valley businesses, and there are countless other potential applications for the robot. While there are positives to a robot like the K5, its invasive nature and sensing capabilities have already spurred privacy advocates to speak out against it.
Marc Rotenburg, director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, likened it to "R2D2's evil twin," according to The Times. "There is a big difference between having a device like this on your private property and in a public space," he said, adding, "Once you enter public space and collect images and sound recordings, you have entered another realm."
Head below to watch a promotional video on the K5, which is being unveiled at this week's Plug and Play Winter Expo in Sunnyvale.