Crime-fighting robots are now on patrol in Silicon Valley:
A new kind of security guard is on patrol in Silicon Valley: crime-fighting robots that look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie.
At first glance, the K5 security robot looks like a cartoonish Star Wars character.
“The vast majority of people see it and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s so cute.’ We’ve had people go up and hug it, and embrace it for whatever reason,” said Stacy Stephens, co-founder of Knightscope, headquartered in Mountain View.
They are unarmed, but they are imposing: about 5 feet tall and 300 pounds, which very likely will make someone think twice before committing a crime in their presence.
Ah, but these robots are unarmed. How dangerous can they be? Well, have you ever seen The Karate Kid?
In the ultimate 1980s flashback, a robot has been programmed to mimic the crane kick made famous in the movie “The Karate Kid.”
The Atlas robot, which looks eerily human with wiry arms and legs, is seen in a video standing on a podium in a workshop. With its human handlers just out of sight of the camera, the robot strikes a pose with its left leg in the air. It then slowly raises its two arms in a bird-like motion and then brings them back down to its side.
Somehow, I think that sweeping the leg won’t work on that robot. And the only one needing a body bag will be you. Once these robots are armed, the game is over for humans. We are almost to the Terminator/RoboCop stage.
I’m not kidding. The U.S. military can’t separate fact from fiction. They actually want an Iron Man suit:
Army Capt. Brian Dowling was leading his Special Forces team through a steep mountain pass in eastern Afghanistan when insurgents ambushed his patrol, leaving two of his soldiers pinned down with life-threatening wounds.
After a furious firefight, the two men were rescued, but that episode in 2006 would change Dowling’s life.
Now employed by a small defense company, he is part of a crash effort by U.S. Special Operations Command to produce a radically new protective suit for elite soldiers to wear into battle — one with bionic limbs, head-to-toe armor, a built-in power supply and live data feeds projected on a see-through display inside the helmet.
They call it — what else? — the “Iron Man suit.”
“We’re taking the Iron Man concept and bringing it closer to reality,” said Dowling, referring to the Marvel Comics character Tony Stark, an industrialist and master engineer who builds a rocket-powered exoskeleton, turning himself into a superhero.
The metal suit the Pentagon wants would be all but impervious to bullets and shrapnel, and be able to continuously download and display live video feeds from overhead drones. Relying on tiny motors, the exoskeleton would enable a soldier to run and jump without strain while carrying 100 or more pounds.
It would, at least in theory, be able to stanch minor wounds with inflatable tourniquets — in the unlikely event the armor is breached. It also would carry a built-in oxygen supply in case of poison gas, a cooling system to keep soldiers comfortable and sensors to transmit the wearer’s vital signs back to headquarters.
“They want an Iron Man-like suit; they’ve been quite open about that,” said Adarsh Ayyar, an engineer at BAE Systems, one of the defense contractors seeking to build a working exoskeleton prototype. “You won’t get all of it. It’s not going to fly. But I think it’s doable.”
Which is fine and dandy, except the head engineer for the defense contractor I worked for last year told me that it isn’t possible without breaking the laws of physics. But when billions of dollars are on the line, defense contractors will tell the Pentagon what they want to hear.
And the Pentagon has wanted cyborg soldiers since at least the late 1980s. I guess they were too busy to go to the movies at that time.