Parking valet today, mall cop tomorrow?
A distinctive-looking bot on wheels with sensors and cameras could one day play the role of beat cop — but first, it will help find you a parking spot.
The robot's unique design was a deliberate attempt to make an “incredibly friendly” robot, Stacy Stephens marketing chief at Knightscope, which builds the bots, told NBC News.
Anticipating people's unease at encountering an all-seeing watcher bot, cute factor was key. “We wanted to be more like R2D2 and much less like Terminator or Robocop,” Stephens, who was a beat cop in Dallas for three years, said.
The result is a 5-foot tall, 300 lb. robot named K5, which ran through some autonomous abilities at a demo last week.
Knightscope was launched in April 2013, and its founders demoed the first models in early December, before hitting CES 2014 in early January. The company plans to begin collaborations with two California tech companies, performing beta tests inside company parking lots, and those are due to begin in March.
“One of the things we’re working on with our beta customers: the ability to detect empty parking spaces,” Stephens said. A third customer is mulling an opportunity to collaborate on similar tests.
Last week, the company tested K5's autonomous capability for the first time. The robot drove around the company car park in Sunnyville, Calif., detected and read license plates, and streamed live video of its surroundings.
Current models of the robot can map their surroundings in 3D, avoid obstactles using sensors similar to the backup warning beepers on the back fo cars. The team is aiming to start production of robots in 2015.
If those robocops look like anything like V1.5 in these videos, they're at least sure to stop traffic.
First published February 6 2014, 12:09 PM