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Drunken man arrested for assaulting 300-lb. K5 security robot

Apr 26, 20174 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData and Information SecuritySecurity

The man allegedly wanted to 'test' the 5-foot-tall, 300-pound, egg-shaped K5 security robot

So, you toss back a few drinks and decide now is the best time to “test” a 5-foot tall, 300-pound, egg-shaped security robot that is patrolling a Mountain View, California, parking lot. Although it might seem like a good idea when you are drunk, it probably isn’t the best plan, considering it resulted in the arrest of 41-year-old man when he tried it.

After Jason Sylvain assaulted Knightscope’s K5 Autonomous Data Machine in a parking lot, he was arrested and stands accused of “prowling and public intoxication.”

Knightscope told ABC7, “It’s a testament to the technology that police caught the aggressor and booked in him jail.”

Why did Sylvain attack the K5 robot in the first place? Stacy Dean Stephens, Knightscope’s vice president of marketing and sales, told CNET, “The attacker claimed to be an engineer that wanted to ‘test’ the security robots. I guess he now has his answer.”

Stephens added:

The robot did exactly as it was suppose to do—the ‘assault’ was detected and immediately reported. The alarms on the robot sounded, the suspect attempted to flee the scene and was detained by one of my colleagues and me until the Mountain View Police arrived.

K5 has “recuperated from his injuries” and is back on patrol. If the damages to the mega-egg bot consisted of nothing more than minor-scratching, then why was Sylvain arrested? Police told CNET, “The employee of the business requested a private person’s arrest for Sylvain for prowling.”

How the K5 security robot came to be

The company came up with the robot after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Ars pointed out that K5 can scan 300 license plates per minute, but that is just one of its many privacy-invading capabilities. You don’t have to be drunk to not be a fan.

When Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, likened the K5 to “R2D2’s evil twin” back in 2013, William Santana Li, a co-founder Knightscope, said, “We don’t want to think about ‘RoboCop’ or ‘Terminator;’ we prefer to think of a mash-up of ‘Batman,’ ‘Minority Report’ and R2D2.”

Li had envisioned K5 security robots as “heroes” that would patrol schools and communities, cutting crime by 50 percent. Little did he imagine that three years later the bot would mow down a toddler.

In the summer of 2016, at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California, one of Knightscope’s 300-pound robots knocked down a 16-month-old boy and ran over him, causing injuries to his foot and leg.

The boy’s mother said, “The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor, and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward.”

Knightscope called it a “freakish accident” and apologized.

Assaults on robots

This isn’t the first drunken attack on a robot. In 2015, in a Japan-based SoftBank store, a drunken 60-year-old man kicked a “humanoid” Pepper robot in a “fit of rage.” The bot’s movements were reportedly slower, which might have been due to damage to its internal computer system.

HitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot that depended upon the kindness of strangers to make it coast to coast, lasted a mere two weeks in the United States. The researchers who built the robot announced an end to its journey after it was damaged in Philadelphia. When found, the robot was missing its head, and its arms had been ripped off. “Not a single wire” was left inside, and “all the things are broken,” the researchers said.

Let’s hope that some company doesn’t reflect back on all of this and decide the public would be better served and “safer” with armed robots on patrol in public spaces.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.