Security robot fired after unlikely ramifications


robotsA SECURITY robot that was hired to patrol the area around a United States animal adoption agency has been ‘fired’ after it’s presence had some unlikely consequences.

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA) is being forced to take the Knightscope K5 robot off the streets after claims that it was harassing homeless people.

The SF SPCA said they used the 150cm tall bot to prevent break-ins, harassment of staff and vandalism of the property, which was reportedly a common occurrence.

For a month the 180kg robot, given the nickname K-9, patrolled the shelter’s parking lots and sidewalks, capturing security video and reading up to 300 license plates per minute.

But not everyone took too kindly to the extra security, with numerous homeless people who often pitched their tents nearby claiming the SPCA was using it to move them from the area.

“We called it the anti-homeless robot,” John Alvarado, one of the people who regularly camped next to the organisation, told The Guardian.

He said the loud beeping and whirring noises that the droid emitted made him decide to move his tent to another location, adding: “I guess that was the reason for the robot.”

The robot itself has suffered a few attacks, including being kicked over, covered in a tarp and having BBQ sauce and even faeces smeared over it, according to the Washington Post.

Both the SF SPCA and Knightscope, creator of the security bot, denied the allegations that the machine’s purpose was to harass or deter homeless people.

“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,” the animal shelter said in a statement.

“Clearly, it backfired,” they added.

In a Twitter post, Knightscope said that, before the decision was made to take K-9 off the streets, the droid has already started to improve the safety of the neighbourhood.

“Contrary to sensationalised reports, we were not brought in to clear area of homeless individuals in SF. Our client has [the] right to protect their property, employees and visitors,” the company wrote.

“SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”

“We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” the publication reported SF SPCA president Jennifer Scarlett as saying.

Officials from the animal shelter have since said that they did not mean to infer that the robot was being used to rid the area of homeless people, but the public outcry quickly gained momentum as more outlets picked up the story.

In another statement Dr Scarlett said that since the story went viral, they have received “hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility” and have “already experienced two acts of vandalism on campus”.