Security Robot Intrigues River Oaks District Shoppers

Security Robot Intrigues River Oaks District Shoppers Houston Chronicle (08/21/17) Blunt, Katherine

In Houston, the swanky, retail-heavy River Oaks District is patrolled by an egg-shaped security robot The robot, dubbed ROD2, recently became the latest addition to a patrol team eager to experiment with fast-evolving technology that has captured the attention of robotics developers. Its eye-like cameras continuously compile information on its surroundings and monitor for unusual activity, providing extra surveillance in an area where expensive cars and high-end stores might tempt criminals. Designed by Silicon Valley-based Knightscope, the robot is one of nearly 40 now on patrol at shopping centers, parking lots, and business properties nationwide. The company expects that total will reach 100 by the end of the year. "We're seeing the potential for robotics to become an enabling technology for every industry," Andra Keay, managing director of the nonprofit group Silicon Valley Robotics, remarks. "That means moving into business, into retail, into a whole range of other areas."

The five-foot-tall autonomous robot looks somewhat like an armless R2-D2 from "Star Wars." Left alone, the robot will rove a designated area with a complex set of sensors that enable it to detect obstacles and monitor its energy levels. It works around the clock, stopping only to charge every couple of hours. It's can read license plates, recognize familiar faces, and detect what could be suspicious activity. In addition, it can sense extreme heat. In the various venues, Knightscope ROD2 robots have recorded information that has helped law enforcement issue an arrest warrant for a sexual predator, apprehend a robber, and track down a vandal. Other companies, most notably Cobalt Robotics, have rolled out similar security robots.

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