And in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, a new type of police officer has been sworn in – a robot cop named KP-Bot.
While the humanoid robot looks more like something one would find in Disneyland than the sci-fi RoboCop that patrolled the streets of Old Detroit in the classic 1987 cyberpunk film, the KP-Bot has already attained the rank of a Sub Inspector and, per India Today, already knows how to practice a “perfect salute.”
Kerala: CM Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated KP-BOT, first humanoid police robot in India, yesterday in Thiruvananthapuram. The robot will perform duties of the front office of police headquarters. It'll receive the visitors & direct them to different places according to their needs. pic.twitter.com/GySUw6RYZ5
— ANI (@ANI) February 19, 2019
“Which presumably just means that it didn’t karate chop its own head off in the process,” Futurism writer Dan Robitzski joked.
The KP-Bot is part of a push to integrate robots into the police force, which was announced last year by the state police chief at the Cocoon Cyber Conference, according to India Today.
However, the KP-Bot isn’t quite ready to man a black-and-white or engage in beat cop activities; the female-featured robot will be restricted to the traditionally gendered occupational role of receptionist – greeting visitors in the front lobby, arranging appointments with officers, providing identity cards, filing grievances, and directing guests to different locations in the police station.
India’s 1st humanoid robot cop was launched in Kerala and deployed at the state police headquarters in Trivandrum. To espouse the cause of women empowerment and gender equality, KP-bot is considered female.#1stIndianRobocop #KPbot #KeralaPolicedepartment #KeralaNews #IndiaNews pic.twitter.com/sEF5SvfmWG
— Indian Eagle (@indianeagle) February 21, 2019
Indeed, Assistant Police Deputy Manoj Abraham has already dubbed KP-Bot a bona fide “woman,” while director general of police Lognath Behra claimed:
“Women empowerment and gender equality were kept in mind while deciding on the gender of the first robot. Also, the fact that most front office jobs are managed by women was considered.”
Technologists in the state also hope to equip the KP-Bot with features more befitting your typical android officer, such as facial recognition and the ability to detect explosives.
Kerala’s police are far from the first organization to introduce robots into their suite of tools.
Silicon Valley startup Knightscope attracted the public spotlight after its own robot cop, the Knightscope K5 – billed in promo materials as “a game changer for security operations everywhere” – had a number of public incidents of “misconduct.”
In 2016, the 5-foot-tall, 300-pound cone-shaped automaton and private security robot – which behaves similar to a Roomba – ran over the foot of a 16-month-old baby in a hit-and-run incident in Palo Alto, California. In April 2017, the robot cop was involved in a public brawl in Mountain View, when a drunken 41-year-old decided it would be a good idea to run and tackle the droid.
A few months later, the Knightscope K5 capped its track record of embarrassments with a humiliating fall into a public fountain in Georgetown, Washington, which social media users speculated was either a case of “suicide” resulting from job-related stress, or even a “baptism” by the company.
Given such a sorry run for the Knightscope K5, it may be a good idea to restrict the KP-Bot to desk duty while “she” remains a rookie.