Security robots now have facial recognition. Face of the future?

Knightscope security robots can now detect faces. Whose faces?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

A selection of Knightscopes new beings.

These words always get me excited. When they come in a press release, that is.

So, this morning, I was positively giddy on reading this: "The wait is over."

What a relief. I've won the lottery and can disappear into the hills and read books all day.

Well, it was almost as good as that.

For this press release came from Knightscope, a company that makes security robots that occasionally get assaulted by concerned humans, occasionally fall into fountains on their own, and are occasionally accused of assault by other concerned humans.

So ,what is it we've been waiting for? Security robots that can taser miscreants and handcuff them?

Not quite. Please welcome security robots with facial recognition.

You mean you've not been waiting for this?

Knightscope says it has performed a test on its K1 Security Robot platform, in conjunction with the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. It's now ready to offer these all-seeing robots to others.

Why would a casino -- or you, for that matter -- want a robot with such talents? Knightscope claims it's "to help enhance Workplace Violence Prevention programs for organizations across the United States."

Surely your workplace needs this.

Indeed, in a previous press release, Knightscope quoted figures from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration that said "58% of senior managers have been threatened by an employee, and about two million employees report some type of workplace violence each year in the US."

And there you were thinking everyone at work just put on their headphones and ignored everyone else.

Please, I don't want to diminish the role violence might play in some workplaces, even if I hadn't heard casinos were among those workplaces.

Naturally, though, there will be those worrying that these robots will turn into workplace spies. It's true that the K1 is only a stationary platform. However, some of Knighscope's robots move around and fall over. So, unlike a single camera, they may soon follow you around. And how terrible that they'll know exactly who you are. 

Suddenly, late at night, you'll be sneaking around your boss's desk and you'll hear a voice: "What do you think you're doing, Gerald?" And, like a Dalek, the security robot will roll menacingly toward you.

Knightscope seems keen to emphasize (what it sees as) the positive side of its technology.

"While facial recognition is largely seen as a tool to protect against known threats, it is also capable of greeting VIPs with a personal message and notifying our clients of VIP arrivals on site," says the company.

But of course.

A client arrives at your offices and the security robot greets it by saying: "Hullo, Mr. Windlegrass. Nice to see you. Remember, we're watching you. By the way, who was that you were having a drink with at the hotel bar last night?"

Please, I know this is the future and I can do nothing to stop it. I also know that security is very important in a frightened world.

But it's bad enough Alexa knowing who you are and recording all your conversations. Will the presence of a workplace security robot that knows exactly who you are really make you feel any better?

Humans vs. Robots, which species is winning?

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