Security Robots Are Just Entertainment 2017
Great entertainment, no real security value.
That is the happy (or sad) state of security robots in 2017.
Knightscope robot's drowning, the global sensation it caused and Knightscope's joking response makes that clear.
The entertainment value, though, is very powerful.
Not Serious, By Design?
3 days after the robot drowning, Knightscope issued a press release. Instead of explaining what went wrong and how they were going to fix it, they continued joking about it, describing the drowning as:
dramatic “unauthorized and unscheduled submarine trials”
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. I don’t remember seeing a “no swimming” sign. Thank you to all the human life guards that pulled me out,” said STEVE upon reboot.
At the end of the statement, they announced setting up a Twitter account for the drowned robot named @K5steveisalive, whose first tweet is:
Any real security system (intrusion, access, video, etc.) that failed so hard and caused serious cost and disruption to the user would be responded to seriously since those systems have real security value.
Selling Entertainment, Not Security
What Knightscope has understood is that any security benefit of their robot is ancillary at best. What they are selling is an amusement.
The people at the office building have set up a 'memorial', whether they care or are mocking the robot is really beside the point because it clearly entertains them:
And there are numerous YouTube videos of random people interacting with the robot like this toddler evidently pretending to be Tom Cruise in the video below:
Or consider this CBS Boston video of people taking pictures and gawking at the robot:
Knightscope should be given credit for understanding this entertainment angle from the beginning, designing the robot to look and sound like the movies:
The United States is a rich enough and entertainment-oriented society that buying 'robots' to amuse customers is a real consideration.
UPDATE: Drowned Robot End User Proves This Point
The end user for the drowned robot has gotten a replacement. They are touting it on social media, as Rosie the maid from the Jetsons. This is a company that understands entertainment value!
Related, here is Rosie overdosing her owner George:
How far and how long these robots can go as an amusement in offices and malls remains to be seen. Maybe Knightscope can develop real utilitarian value when the gimmick starts to fade.
Security Robots Taken Seriously
Unfortunately, those of us actually in the security business are going to increasingly face a public and even our own peers who think of security robots first and foremost as a gimmick rather than a device that can genuinely make people safer or reduce crime.