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Robotics AI Crime

Will Robots Replace Rent-a-Cops? 157

Posted by timothy
from the gradual-and-inexorable dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Now, an EU-funded, £7.2 million ($11 million USD) collaborative project, called Strands, is underway in England to develop 4D, artificial intelligence for security and care applications. It aims to produce intelligent robo-sentinels that can patrol areas, and learn to detect abnormalities in human behavior. Could their project eventually replace security guards with robots? It looks possible. Strands, as Nick Hawes of the University of Birmingham said, will 'develop novel approaches to extract spatio-temporal structure from sensor data gathered during months of autonomous operation,' to develop intelligence that can then 'exploit [those] structures to yield adaptive behavior in highly demanding, real-world security and care scenarios.'"
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Will Robots Replace Rent-a-Cops?

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  • by rwyoder (759998) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:33PM (#44721033)

    "Please put down your weapon! You have 20 seconds to comply!"

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      ED 209? I'll buy that for a dollar!

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:48PM (#44721107)

      Damn! You beat me to it. Anyway, from TFA:

      Strands, as Nick Hawes of the University of Birmingham said, will "develop novel approaches to extract spatio-temporal structure from sensor data gathered during months of autonomous operation," to develop intelligence that can then "exploit [those] structures to yield adaptive behavior in highly demanding, real-world security and care scenarios."

      The key problem with that is that the subjects the robot is studying will know that they are being studied and will be able to alter their behaviour to change what the robot "learns".

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      "Please put down your weapon! You have 20 seconds to comply!"

      They won't be taken seriously until someone loses an eye. When a robot kills a human and the courts declare it justifiable, open season begins.

      • Do land mines count as robots? They're pretty dumb, but autonomously so.
        • by slick7 (1703596)

          Do land mines count as robots? They're pretty dumb, but autonomously so.

          Only if they dig themselves up, move and then rebury.

          • "Only if they dig themselves up, move and then rebury." Ideally they'll have spider-legs and make a horrible scuttling noise during this process.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Only if they have some kind of system within them that can differentiate between two loads which are both sufficient to trip the mine, or similar. Robots make their own decisions. Going off when a contact is closed doesn't count.

          • The cheap seats use pretty simple sensors (which is fair enough, when per-unit costs are a serious factor, you want to avoid the use of metal, and long-term reliability in harsh conditions is important); but some of the fancier ones, especially anti-vehicle and naval mines, have pretty sophisticated mechanisms; both for anti-tamper purposes and to ignore spurious signals from demining flails, explosive demining, or vehicles too small to be worth killing.

            It's ultimately a somewhat pointless endeavor to de
    • by pbjones (315127)

      Ok, hands up who thought of posting the same quote! o/

    • I wish that would be the case. Then only those gun-slinging Libertarians would have a problem. But what if it's:

      "Please act normal. You have 20 seconds to comply."

      What if in the future the mere display of "abnormalities in human behavior", whatever that means to whoever decides, itself becomes a crime.

    • by hutsell (1228828)

      "Please put down your weapon! You have 20 seconds to comply!"

      Is this a worthy comparison? An alternative remembrance, THX 1138 [media-imdb.com] being interrogated; also, the main focus of its movie's poster. [wikimedia.org]

      • by lxs (131946)

        Another tragic victim of Lucas Editing Disease.

        • by hutsell (1228828)

          Another tragic victim of Lucas Editing Disease.

          The guy should give his original works a little more respect. It was a simple story, impressively told. Although the special effects (if any at all) were limited to analog tricks, the unique production — excellent for its time — would still work today. If he felt it was outdated, a remake or a sequel to THX's story would have been the preferably better route.

          Freshening up his films with CGI, seems to imply an easy way to get more money with little effort; showing a lack of interest, perhaps l

    • by drsquare (530038)

      20 seconds would give any shoplifter or armed robber plenty of time to get away.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords!

    • Re:Overlords (Score:4, Insightful)

      by narcc (412956) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:13PM (#44721231) Journal

      Or you could just push them over, slowly walk up a set of stairs, toss a towel over them, or any of a zillion simple ways to significantly disable them that even the fattest mall-cop would easily overcome.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Or you could just push them over, slowly walk up a set of stairs, toss a towel over them, or any of a zillion simple ways to significantly disable them that even the fattest mall-cop would easily overcome.

        You are missing the point I think. Most security guards don't do anything but observer and report. They will not under any circumstance attempt to prevent the crime from taking place. Armed security of course is different, but TFA seems more geared towards replacing observer and report guards since we can pretty much cover that will technology anyway.

        Just like the automated cars from an article the other day, if your job requires no real training, it will probably be replaced by machines sooner then later.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          That's because the purpose of security is to observe and report. Officers that go beyond that run the risk of all sorts of legal ramifications. Not to mention the bitching and moaning about overstepping of their authority. Private security has the subset of ownership rights that the property owner has chosen do delegate to them.

          I realize that it's cool to hate security,but the least you could do is educate yourself before spouting off. The point of security is to observe and report in most cases. There are

      • But they would respond exactly like the fat mall cop would - by calling the actual cops. It would be more difficult to prevent a robot mall cop from doing that than a human mall cop. The robot mall cop could also easily be rigged with a "dead man's switch" so that if contact is lost, cops are notified.

        • by icebike (68054)

          You can taunt the mall cop all you want, and there is not much he can do.
          But spray paint him and you probably will be arrested. Probably just property damage if you spray paint the robot.
          When a flash mob forms and disrupts all the robots at once, the police will quickly realize the false alarms aren't worth the trouble.

          • by fredklein (532096)

            When a flash mob forms and disrupts all the robots at once,

            http://www.larryniven.net/stories/cloak_of_anarchy.shtml [larryniven.net]

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          they would respond exactly like the fat mall cop would - by calling the actual cops. It would be more difficult to prevent a robot mall cop from doing that than a human mall cop

          Step 1, cover top of security droid with trashcan. Step 2, secure with chain to handles of can, between wheels, walkers, etc. Step 3, laugh and laugh as wireless signals fail. The early bots probably won't even have arms, you could shut them down with a mylar bag.

          • Yeah. That's why I wrote a third sentence about how to overcome that.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Yeah. That's why I wrote a third sentence about how to overcome that.

              You know, people steal whole fucking ATMs. A security bot will be loaded into a van and gone before you can say "Unit 21 appears to have lost communications."

              • Why would you steal the robot? The point of the robot is to protect the property, not the robot. The whole idea is that the cops can get to the property in less time than it takes for you to make off with anything valuable- just like with rent a cops today.

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  Why would you steal the robot?

                  Because it's valuable.

                  The whole idea is that the cops can get to the property in less time than it takes for you to make off with anything valuable- just like with rent a cops today.

                  Rent-a-cops are mostly there to be witnesses.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Or you could just push them over, slowly walk up a set of stairs, toss a towel over them, or any of a zillion simple ways to significantly disable them that even the fattest mall-cop would easily overcome.

        Ah, I see you grew up watching Doctor Who defeat the daleks in various ways...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    KILL ALL HUMANS

  • If you're going for automation - why not just fixed cameras and other sensors covering the whole area?
    • by Kjella (173770)

      If you're going for automation - why not just fixed cameras and other sensors covering the whole area?

      Cost and because they're also easier to map out and avoid? It doesn't need to be everywhere, it's enough that it could be everywhere as that makes the risk non-zero no matter the plan. I don't see this as an either-or, you'd want basic surveillance of the whole area with roaming security to add some dynamic to the system.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Humans are cheap and better at the job. The only way humans aren't cheaper is if you neglect to account for regular maintenance (which requires humans) and replacement costs. Humans are also easier to replace with other humans if they don't work out and tend to upgrade their knowledge and experience without requiring expensive new models.

        Fixed cameras and sensors may not be as dynamic, but it's trivial to carpet an area with them so completely that it doesn't matter if an attacker knows they are there. For

      • by icebike (68054)

        If you're going for automation - why not just fixed cameras and other sensors covering the whole area?

        Cost and because they're also easier to map out and avoid? It doesn't need to be everywhere, it's enough that it could be everywhere as that makes the risk non-zero no matter the plan. I don't see this as an either-or, you'd want basic surveillance of the whole area with roaming security to add some dynamic to the system.

        Somehow non of those reasons have stopped the British. An article published in CCTV Image magazine estimates that the number of cameras in the UK is 1.85 million. And that's just the public ones run by the police.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      If you're going for automation - why not just fixed cameras and other sensors covering the whole area?

      There's still a fairly low limit on how many video streams one person can attend to, especially if it's busy. Roving robots may not be useful, but what is happening is the cameras are getting smarter in where they look, and when to alert the operator: [forbes.com]

      It's not just law enforcement that has taken note of this. Retail outlets such as Macys, Babys âRâ(TM) Us, and CVS have installed systems in som

  • Since the human nature is a violent one, I don't think violent behavior is abnormal, only not accepted in most circumstances by our social standards. The robot will detect behavior disapproved by the government that bought it.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The problem with this concept is exactly what you pointed to but for a different reason. Nobody will obey a fucking robot's orders! As someone said above, cameras will do just as well. Can these robots use tasers or shoot people with firearms? Many "rent a cops" are off-duty police officers earning a little beer money.

      • by djupedal (584558) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:33PM (#44721317)

        Can these robots use tasers or shoot people with firearms? Many "rent a cops" are off-duty police officers earning a little beer money.

        I'd rather trust an armed robot over a rent-a-cop any day. Last time one shot at me, the real cops that showed up hauled him off and lamented I didn't use the firearm we all agreed wasn't under the seat of my car...

        • by Kijori (897770)

          "Last time" one shot at you? Meaning this has happened more than once? What on earth do you do when you go shopping?

    • by zlives (2009072)

      does robo inherently imply AI, a better description might be drone-sentinels... maybe

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Since the human nature is a violent one, I don't think violent behavior is abnormal, only not accepted in most circumstances by our social standards.

      And assuming we haven't all been brainwashed by aliens to remember a false history or something, our society is a product of our nature, as are the social mores that make violence unacceptable, so just what do you mean when you say our nature is violent? How would you even observe human nature apart from nurture?

      In any case, as long as most people don't engage

      • by CmdrEdem (2229572)

        Let's just say I'm not including only direct physical harm in my definition of violence. We may not hit ourselves in each other faces all day long, but:

        1- Our culture, more and more, represents violence. All kinds of media. Every time. All around.

        2- Look at the Internet. Look at comment sections (/. excluded, and that's why I still read comments here). That should be the new definition of verbal violence.

        3- Any way we deprive someone from their basic means of survival can be considered violence IMHO. All so

  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:40PM (#44721077)

    Nick Hawes sounds like just another tired academic jumping on the bandwagon of grant money for security applications.

    Shame on him.

  • An AI can only tell with maybe 70% accuracy if I'm a human or a spam bot, let alone identify 'abnormal' behaviours. Of course now with the internet it has access to billions of social interactions to establish a baseline:

    *****
    Possible subject identified....
    Scanning social media to establish baseline behavioural norms....
    Behaviours identified....
    Subject found to not be dressing a cat in a strange costume or ranting narcissistically - Abnormality identified....
    *****

    Maybe not...
  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:52PM (#44721127)

    The reality of a security guard is your main job is...to lower insurance costs. The reasons if you need to be a serious criminal to want to go through a human, these robots don't have deterrent...but I suspect nothing like the costs. The fact is accountants will decide this one.

    In case your confused about what a security guard really does this is a clip from mike leighs Naked https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N90sl94g7PE [youtube.com]

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Sort of, it's a gross simplification though. Yes, those do exist and are used, but it's not a matter of plugging the thing into the various points. It's going out and physically looking at the building. It's also an easy way of recording which areas were inspected and when.

      And yes, security does lower insurance costs, but so do smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. But, we don't say that smoke detectors and sprinkler systems are for the purpose of lowering insurance costs. Same goes for security, security

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:57PM (#44721149)
    A pedestrian crossing the street outside the marked cross walk at Abner Ave. was killed today when a Patrolling Robot experienced a malfunction while writing a traffic citation at the scene. Authorities aren't clear yet on what happened but when paramedics arrived at the scene they found the robot's probe impaled in the suspects anus and a blank blue screen indicating an IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL exception.
  • hm.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by metalmaster (1005171) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:57PM (#44721151)
    gimme a roomba, a broom stick and a pivoting webcam.
  • by betterprimate (2679747) on Friday August 30, 2013 @06:57PM (#44721153)

    For the rent-a-cop, abnormalities are: black, brown, poor, disabled or disordered, etc., ... unprepared, or even intelligent. Being intelligent is just too suspicious. Can the robot do all that?

    Everytime I visit the grocery store nearby, it's like a game of pacman. They have about six security guards per isle and they follow me around like dim-witted ghosts. I have to hurriedly snatch up my bread, coffee, and milk to make it safely to checkout.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Intelligent doesn't imply smart.

      Perhaps all the furtive speedy grabbing of items is what leads you to look suspicious?

      At any rate, if this is your local grocery store, the smart thing to do is get to know the people that work there and let them get to know you. Perhaps you are just as prejudiced as they are, and there's no cure for prejudice like exposure to the truth.

      • Intelligent doesn't imply smart.

        Perhaps all the furtive speedy grabbing of items is what leads you to look suspicious?

        At any rate, if this is your local grocery store, the smart thing to do is get to know the people that work there and let them get to know you. Perhaps you are just as prejudiced as they are, and there's no cure for prejudice like exposure to the truth.

        That's a reasonable assumption, but no, they're just underpaid unintelligible extra-distrustful assholes. This is my local grocery store and I am doing the smart thing of getting to know them: they're entitled, underpaid, unintelligible, extra-distruful assholes. Even striking up a conversation with the cashier is suspicious. The front door should read: "Caution: Do not make eye contact, do not divert from grocery list, DO go at extra slow pace. All abnormalities are treated as hostile combatants."

        It's a ch

        • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:28PM (#44721785) Journal
          I have the unfortunate predilection of acting the same towards everybody and being extremely idealistic. Growing up english in quebec there were always situations like this. Granted, I wouldn't call my behaviour tough, just naive and autistic. However, I never backed down and things always worked out in the end.

          I'm not sure if MX is supposed to stand for mexico, but when I was living there, no matter the attitude of the person, if I treated them like any other human (and I do that because I see them as any other human) they were unable to do anything but treat me the same. It's amazing how treating others the same as you would treat yourself can even get police that were looking for bribes to let you go free. Once, an enraged crack addict in withdrawal broke his hand against a concrete wall because he couldn't bring himself to harm me because of the way I had treated him.

          Change the way you see them in your head and you might find that they change the way they act towards you.

          • Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              Nothing new under the sun. Just putting into practice esoteric ideas from millenia ago to test their merit as any good scientist should.
    • by m00sh (2538182)

      Everytime I visit the grocery store nearby, it's like a game of pacman. They have about six security guards per isle and they follow me around like dim-witted ghosts. I have to hurriedly snatch up my bread, coffee, and milk to make it safely to checkout.

      I have no idea what kind of grocery store you go to but the one I go to has hundreds of cameras mounted above the isles. If they follow me, they do so in the comfort of their central room where they can view the camera feeds.

      Since there is only one exit to

      • I live in Mexico City. Where the fuck do you live, man? It sounds like everyone where you live is already robots.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        They get rewarded for every shoplifter they catch because if you are caught shoplifting, they will offer to make a deal with you for $400 to not press charges in the local courts.

        What are their documentation requirements? If they don't have to provide video evidence, any moderately talented swindling extortionist could leverage that situation to make thousands of dollars a day framing people.

  • No matter how shitty the AI, it can't be any dumber than the typical rent-a-cop.

    • And that's exactly why it's a bad idea. I don't think I'm stereotyping too badly when I say that the percentage of thugs and bullies is much higher in the rent-a-cop population than the population at large. Before you disagree too strenuously, think back to your last encounter with the TSA. Now picture all these people out of work.
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Please don't extrapolate from your country to other countries. Perhaps it's different in the UK, I know through experience it isn't that way in most of Canada (haven't seen it all!).
  • Hopefully, they'll also be able to detect abnormalities in robot behavior... Before things get out of hand.

  • This reminds me of the movie Chopping Mall [imdb.com], where security robots patrol a mall, and (big surprise) a bunch of teenagers get stuck in there overnight.

  • by Jessified (1150003) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:11PM (#44721227)

    "It aims to produce intelligent robo-sentinels that can patrol areas, and learn to detect abnormalities in human behavior."

    Forget "abnormalities," if they just programmed the robots to detect and harass black people, you could replace the entire NYPD!

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Forget "abnormalities," if they just programmed the robots to detect and harass black people, you could replace the entire NYPD!

      It's almost enough to replace the LAPD too, but they will also need to be able to discriminate between various shades of brown and swing a baton like a home run hit.

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:15PM (#44721239)

    We already have seven of these. They're called D.O.Gs. Work great. Highly intelligent and programmable. Self directed. Loyal. Obedient. Self-replicating. Able to power themselves off of local rodents and farm wastes (meat & bones). They're also good at herding livestock.

  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:36PM (#44721335)
    Robots do not eat donuts.
  • by cookYourDog (3030961) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:36PM (#44721337)
    Good luck patrolling the streets with machines composed of rare earth metals, proprietary design, and expensive hardware. Unless these things can protect themselves (hint: no), expect them to be walking (or rolling) targets for salvage.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Not to mention capture and repurposing! Imagine the havoc you could create with repurposed robocops.
  • by houbou (1097327) on Friday August 30, 2013 @07:39PM (#44721349) Journal
    This is really where we need to balance our drive for automation with the need for human intuition and thinking.

    I will bet that it will be easy at first to hack these robots.

    I'm weary about more and more machines taking the place of humans in the workforce.

    Actually, what I'm really weary about is that it's great to have new technologies which can replace human labor, but there should also be something to offset where the human labor gets a chance to learn new skills to get other types of employment.

    After all, a person who can't get a fair chance at work, well, that's simply wrong, as it remove this person some dignity.

    Society needs to balance all of this, so that everybody has a chance to contribute to something and get monetary rewards.

    It's simple economics.

    This is where for once, our government should step in and balance things out, for the good of the people, who are also taxpayers. Promote the work, promote human labor and promote the moving of currency so that everybody has a chance to live.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm weary about[...]

      You might be leery about these things, but normally you'd be weary of them.

      • by Whibla (210729)

        I can understand why someone might be wary of them, but weary?

        Hmm... Actually, perhaps that could work, if they constantly emit a soporific, ensuring everyone is too tired to bother doing anything 'bad'.

  • Will it be easy to trip up with false positives or other ways to tick the rent a rob cop?

  • Will their project blah blah blah? No, they'll be probably dead by the time we're actually replacing human rent-a-dicks with ED-209s in any notable numbers. But over a long enough time scale, isn't this sort of inevitable? If we don't blow ourselves up first, or make a singularity or something.

  • God knows what all those rent-a-cop types would be doing if they couldn't get that job!
  • Many people will have trouble killing a human, because empathy creates a barrier. On the other hand, I suspect anyone can "kill" a robot without any hesitation nor any remorse.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Not to mention it's a lesser offense. Just vandalism as opposed to murder unless they make a special new category of crime to protect them. I can imagine the fun gangs would have disabling these things in inventive and expensive-to-repair ways.
      • Push it down the stairs
      • throw it in the fountain
      • spray paint its cameras
      • Taser it
      • stick big magnets to it
      • put a trash bag over it
      • steal its batteries
      • steal the whole fucking thing
      • hijack its video feed
      • hack its command channel
      • jam its command channel
      • program it to
  • Patrolling isles in prisons is one good use of these devices. One could slide by a call once every three minutes and report sounds of distress etc..
    The greatest issue with this sort of thing is the loss of jobs for humans. There are large condominium projects where a swarm of these robots could be much better than one or two human guards. Fire sensors and scream detection as well as mobile cams could discourage all kinds of crime. But there are a cons

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Patrolling isles in prisons is one good use of these devices.

      If your prison is on an island, you don't need to use robots to monitor the territory. A few cameras watching the shore will suffice.

      The greatest issue with this sort of thing is the loss of jobs for humans.

      You are not the first person to note that in this thread, nor did you do a particularly good job of it. Won't someone think of the buggy-whip makers?!

  • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Friday August 30, 2013 @08:54PM (#44721659)

    If I recall correctly there are some military bases in the western United States that have had ARMED robot sentries for the better part of a decade. I suppose these are not exactly the smartest robots ever, little more than unmanned ATVs with sensor packages driving preprogrammed routes looking for movement/heat sources. If they find one they target their gun and wait for orders from a manned security post. While I don't have a real problem with security drones arming them with anything (lethal or non) is a bad idea, many authority figures already have god complex, I can only imagine it getting worse if they have the power of life, death & excruciating pain at the behest of their keyboard.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/02/army-gets-more/ [wired.com]

  • Could their project eventually replace security guards with robots?

    When you put it like that yes, By definition of could and eventually.

    Just like everything else.

  • include having dark skin...

  • by mpaque (655244)

    As a bonus, the robots can protect us from The Terrible Secret of Space.

    I just hope they don't get all philosophical. Remember the lesson of Bomb #20...

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