According to Gizmodo, a robot from Boston Dynamics has been deployed to a park in Singapore to remind people they should follow social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. Spot is not designed as a security robot, like the K5 or the K3 from Knightscope. But it has other qualities: it can walk on four legs and is very fast. The machine, which was set loose on 8 May 2020 in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, “broadcasts a message reminding visitors they need to stay away from other humans, as covid-19 poses a very serious threat to our health”. It “was made available for purchase by businesses and governments last year and has specially designed cameras to make sure it doesn’t run into things.” (Gizmodo, 8 May 2020) According to a press release from Singapore’s GovTech agency, the cameras will not be able to track or recognize specific individuals, “and no personal data will be collected” (Gizmodo, 8 May 2020). COVID-19 demonstrates that digitization and technologization can be helpful in crises and disasters. Service robots such as security robots, transport robots, care robots and disinfection robots are in increasing demand.
Knightscope’s security robots have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years. They can see, hear and smell – and report anything suspicious to a central office. A new generation has emerged from a partnership with Samsung. The monolithic cone has become a piecemeal object. The company writes in its blog: “With its all new, fully suspended drivetrain, the K5v4 is uniquely suited to manage the more aggressive terrain outside Samsung’s Silicon Valley workplace. Since deploying, we have been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a robot guard tour in areas inhibited by speed bumps, while continuing to sweep both of their multi-story parking garages for abandoned vehicles and provide their command center with the additional eyes and ears to provide more security intelligence and improve overall security.” (Knightscope, 16 June 2019) Security robots can certainly be an option in closed areas. When used in public spaces, many ethical questions are raised. However, security robots can do more than security cameras. And it is hard to escape the fourth generation.