Technology 3 min read

Suicidal Robot Tries to be too Human

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Mopic |

Due to unknown reasons, an autonomous patrol robot in a DC office building drove itself into a shallow fountain.

One of the main characters in Douglas Adams’ saga, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is Marvin.

Deeming the tasks he’s been given unworthy of his wide intellect, this “Paranoid Android” displays signs of boredom and moroseness in all circumstances (which may have something to do with Douglas Adams’ own depressed mood at the time).

A robot takes its own life by driving into a fountain in a DC office building.Click To Tweet

As Marvin’s depression didn’t stop him from fulfilling his mission and surviving, we have to wonder why a security robot took his own life–leaving many more unanswered questions to untangle.

Knightscope’s Robocops Make the law in Silicon Valley

Founded in 2013, Knightscope is a Silicon Valley-based robotics startup that manufactures Autonomous Data Machines (ADMs), with two models currently available for order (K5, K3), and the upcoming K7.

Knightscope’s autonomous and smart robots aim to reduce the crime rate in the places where they are installed, such as building offices, sports arenas, malls, corporate campuses, and datacenters.

ADMs are not for sale as Knightscope merely rents them out. For $7/h, they provide “extra eyes and ears” for security teams, and patrol areas looking for abnormal activities 24/7.

The Knightscope K5 takes the shape of an egg, standing at over 5 feet tall and weighing 300 lbs. Suited for large outdoor areas like parking lots, K5 is equipped with an array of sensors and motion detectors, thermal imaging system, and even a license plate recognition system.

A set of infrared cameras enable K5 to continuously shoot in 360° while patrolling aisles at a speed of up to 5 miles per hour.

Like most security guards, the K5 is not armed, for now, but it provides information to the security team in real time.

Goodbye Cruel World! Watery Demise of the K5 Droid

Creating a smart droid capable of displaying human traits is the ultimate goal in robotics. Yet it looks like one of Knightscope’s robots got a little carried away.

On July 17, a K5 seems to have deliberately driven down the steps of a fountain at the Washington Harbor, a commercial and office complex in DC.

The robot stayed floating sideways, until it was removed from the water, under the unbelieving eyes (and phone cameras) of witnesses who documented the funny incident.

Maybe it’s a bug, or circuit overheating, or boredom, the reasons are yet unknown, but Knightscope said it was investigating this “isolated event”.

Maybe not! This isn’t the first time a K5 got itself into trouble. Last year, a K5 knocked over a boy at the Stanford Shopping Center in California, leaving him with a bruised leg, and the robot kept moving like it was nothing.

Perhaps these robots just keep their feelings bottled up until a dramatic display is necessary.

What should we do about suicidal robots?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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