I come to you with yet more dispatches from the nascent robot hell dystopia we find ourselves in. A San Francisco animal shelter has ‘fired’ a security robot it was using to patrol nearby streets after claims it was harassing homeless people.
Yes, that is a real thing, and not a subplot from a forgotten RoboCop sequel. In fact, it is the very same model of Knightscope robot we reported on earlier in the year for killing itself in a shopping centre fountain.
Our D.C. office building got a security robot. It drowned itself.— Bilal Farooqui (@bilalfarooqui) July 17, 2017
We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. pic.twitter.com/rGLTAWZMjn
The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had been using the 5-foot tall droid as a menas of combatting break-ins and drug abuse in the streets surrounding its HQ. Because obviously the best way to deal with these problems is a hunk of semi-sentient metal and plastic with a thirst for justice.
Despite the fact it was ostensibly successful at these goals, the robot was also accused of harassing homeless people and deterring them from setting up camps in the area. Which is kind of unsurprising – I probably wouldn’t pitch a tent when there’s a 180-kilogram robot cop patrolling the area. It’s, uh, more than a little intimidating.
The robot itself was subject to a few righteous attacks – including being pushed over and having BBQ sauce smeared over its sensors.
The SFSPCA withdrew the robot from its patrol, and issued a statement denying their intent was to cause distress for the city’s homeless:
The SF SPCA was exploring the use of a robot to prevent additional burglaries at our facility and to deter other crimes that frequently occur on our campus — like car break-ins, harassment, vandalism, and graffiti — not to disrupt homeless people. Clearly, it backfired.
Knightscope – and their CEO William Santana Li – who have said their goal is the vaguely ominous threat “to make the United States of America the safest country in the world” (sounds fascist but ok) took to Twitter as part of a snap campaign to protect the company’s rep.
Knightscope's goal is to make the United States of America the safest country in the world, changing everything for everyone. We'll secure the haters and naysayers, too, because our mission is more important than a tweet, false accusations or sloppy journalism. #KnightscopeStrong— William Santana Li (@WSantanaLi) December 15, 2017
Contrary to sensationalized reports, we were not brought in to clear area of homeless individuals in SF. Our client has right to protect their property, employees and visitors. SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.— Knightscope (@iKnightscope) December 13, 2017
Sorry guys, but your PR campaign message should at the very least sound like it isn’t being produced by the evil corporation in a cyberpunk novel.
Let’s cool it with the cop droids, shall we?