As a fight erupted in the parking lot of Salt Lake Park in California, an onlooker quickly ran to a RoboCop that was patrolling the area and pressed the emergency alert button.
When the police robot merely asked the woman to 'step out of the way', she started to question what its purpose for being in the park was.
As our world becomes more and more automated, with robotics taking over many human roles and offering assistance, we have to wonder just how useful some of these inventions truly are.
When you need the police, you still have to call 911
As the woman trying to help, Cogo Guebara, realized that pressing the emergency button on the RoboCop was not going to call for backup, she tried another method.
Guebara then crouched down to the robot's camera lens height, thinking it needed a visual in order to assist her.
That was not the case. The RoboCop kept spouting out 'get out of the way'.
Given the police robot had the actual word 'Police' written in large letters on its front and back, it was quite a natural reaction to assume it may, in fact, offer help, just like the police would.
However, these HP RoboCops, built and leased by Knightscope, are not yet linked up to police departments. Currently, their emergency button calls Knightscope, who then has to call the police. A bit of a long-ended mission when you're in need of responsive and immediate assistance.
Cosme Lozano, chief of police at Hungtington Park said, "That’s why we’re not advertising those features. It’s a new program for us and we're still developing some protocols… to be able to fully adopt the program."
So, what is the purpose of these robots?
At the moment, Knightscope has developed and launched 70 of these RoboCops across the U.S. They are autonomous security robots that combine self-driving technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence. They're meant to be 'crime-fighting autonomous data machines'.
They've been deployed in a number of different U.S. locations, from gas stations to airports. That said, they're still on a trial basis according to Lozano, as they're not yet fully linked to the police force.
What can RoboCops do that is actually useful? They have a 360 degree high-definition live video stream, they can read license plates at a rate of 1,200 plates per minute, they have a two-way intercom (although we noticed that it didn't work very well during this recent park fiasco), as well as the ability to track mobile phone use in the vicinity.
They're glorified 24/7 moving CCTV cameras. Which may be pretty useful when sending information directly to the police force.
However, for the time being, a fair bit of work still needs to be done if the RoboCops are to become useful to people in need of police assistance. This was clearly demonstrated when Rudy Espericuta, with Guebara at the scene, had to dial 911.