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A robot mall cop did more harm than good

Accidental harm.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A roving security robot has been patrolling parts of Palo Alto since last year, with the sole job of protecting the people around it. The robo mall cop recently failed on that front when it knocked over and injured a toddler.

As a cheaper alternative to human labor, Uber hired the K5 to patrol a lot where its drivers can go for free vehicle inspections in the Bay Area. The Stars Wars-esque robot debuted in Stanford Shopping Center on May 4th last year.

The 5-foot-tall, 300-pound K5 injured 16-month-old Harwin Cheng at the mall last week, ABC7 reported. “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,” Harwin’s mom Tiffany Teng told ABC7. Teng said the robot ran over Cheng’s foot, causing it to swell up, and scraped his leg.

Unlike its Chinese doppelganger, Anbot, this bullet-shaped bot doesn’t have any combat features like built-in tasers. Instead, it gathers real-time data through sensors, as well as from publicly available data from businesses, government, and social data feeds. If the robots detect cause for concern in the area, an alert is sent to the community and authorities through the Knightscope Security Operations Center, Palo Alto Online reported.

Knightscope, which shares Google’s home in Mountain View, did not respond to a request for comment.

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