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Knightscope Autonomous Data Machine
Developer Knightscope, Inc
Type Robot
Release date 1k5 Prototype: December 5, 2013 (2013-12-05)

Knightscope (the K5 beta prototype) is a fully autonomous robot, used to monitor crimes in schools, businesses, and neighborhoods.[1][2][3] Its developers stated that development was inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and to prevent future crimes.[1][2][3]

The K5 robot is 5 feet tall, and 300 pounds. The K5 detects crime using a variety of sensors including video camera, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder, radar, air quality sensors and a microphone. The K5 has been developed since 2013 by Knightscope, Inc., a Silicon Valley startup located in Mountain View, CA. A concern is that Knightscope will introduce another means of mass surveillance, a controversial issue.[2][3]

If the K5 detects abnormal noise and temperature change, or known criminals, it will alert local authorities.[2][3]


The K5 is still in beta test.[4] It will be placed in public places such as shopping malls and schools. Once in work, it will move at about 3 mph in a geo-fenced area and gather real-time on-site data using its sensors.[citation needed]

The captured data includes the licence plates, facial recognition and people's movements. The K5 analyzes the data through the analytics engine and use data sets from business and government as reference[citation needed]. After analysis, software determines when to alert the community and authorities about the concern[citation needed]. Once the alert is on, the K5 will turn on all its sensors, allow the whole community to review the data and provide real-time information.[5]


Knightscope, Inc. hopes the K5 will help security and law enforcement personnel detect trouble while preventing and minimizing public injuries and fatalities.[6] Another goal of Knightscope, Inc. is to cut down crime rates. William Li said, "Our aim is to cut the crime rate by 50% in a geo-fenced area, which would increase housing values and safety while lowering insurance costs."[7]

The company's CEO William Li started a failed police car startup known as Carbon Motors.[8]


The K5 is a bullet-shaped and penguin like robot that stands about 5 feet tall. The K5 has twin panels of lights about two-thirds of the way up its body. There is also a small silver color flag of the United States on the left side of its body.[9]


Height 60 Inches (1524 mm)
Length 36 Inches (914 mm)
Width 32 inches (813 mm)
Weight 300 pounds (136 kg)



The K5 has a maximum speed of 18 miles per hour (29 kph), but usually it moves at 1 to 3 miles per hour.[11][12] It is designed to use mapping software to create a geo-fenced perimeter that makes it stay within one area.[citation needed] The K5 creates a point cloud to show a 3-D image of the surroundings in the geo-fenced area. The K5 also uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect objects in surroundings and movements of its wheels.[12]

Sensor options[edit]

Knightscope representatives said on the K5 there "is an onboard sensor array that can see, hear, touch and smell its surroundings."[4][13]

Optical Character Recognition The K5 detects criminal records through facial recognition. It scans up to 1,500 license plates per minute. When the K5 detects a license for a known criminal on "hot list", it will alert the law enforcement force. It can also check its database to confirm the match.[11][10]
Omnidirectional Imaging The K5 has "360-degree high definition video capture".[10]
Microphones The K5 has an ambient noise microphone that can capture audio. The range from 80 to 90 decibels is normal. If the sounds suddenly goes beyond 100 decibels, the K5 will notify the local authorities.[10][14]
Air Quality The K5 has a sensor that can record the temperature and air quality.[15]
Ultrasonic The ultrasonic sensor is used to detect speed and distance when the robot cruises in an area.[10][16]
Infrared The K5 uses the infrared light to collect about 90TB of data every day, and the infrared light can function at night.[10][17]
Radar The radar is used for 3D mapping of the objects in the surroundings.[10][18]
Lidar LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It emits laser that sweeps 270-degree to measure the objects and map its surrounding area.[11]
Thermal Imaging The thermal imaging sensor detects and measures minute temperature differences. Also, it can cooperate with the microphone to check whether there is a bright glare after a loud sound possibly from an explosion or gunshot.[10] It can detect objects 24 hours a day.[12]


Privacy Issues[edit]

The K5 will be widely used in public places, thus people[who?] are concerned with their privacy. The K5 can take pictures and videos of people without any notification. It can also monitor people's conversation. People are afraid that their social figures will be damaged by the robot.[19] Some don't trust the K5's ability to recognize the actual suspects. Jeramie Scott, a national security fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said, “Automated surveillance, facial recognition and license plate recognition in public makes us all suspects. The K5 could become like a cuter, less aggressive Terminator that kills privacy instead of people.”[20]


People[who?] wonder if the K5 will protect them or actually spy on them. They also question about the K5's ability to prevent crime. Although it can detect suspicious activities, it can not arrest the criminals or stop an attack. Furthermore, the K5's speed is limited and it only moves on the plain ground. In other words, the K5 can not prevent crimes effectively.[21]

Another concern is mass surveillance. People feel they are under pervasive surveillance if there is a robot watching on them in public space. Marc Rotenberg, President and Executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center(EPIC), stated that “Once you enter public space and collect images and sound recordings, you have entered another realm. This is the kind of pervasive surveillance that has put people on edge.”[22]


In July 2016, a Knightscope K5 which was deployed at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA collided with a 16-month-old toddler, bruising the child's leg and running over the child's foot.[23] The Stanford Shopping center responded by docking all of its K5 units, suspending any further activity by the robots until the incident could be investigated. Knightscope responded, calling the incident a "freakish accident", and issued a formal apology to the family of the child. In April 2017, a 41-year-old Mountain View man was arrested in connection to the alleged parking-lot altercation with a K5, also at the Stanford Shopping Center.[24]


  1. ^ a b "The dawn of a REAL Robocop?". The dawn of a REAL Robocop?. London: Daily Mail. 2 December 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Markoff, John (29 November 2013). "A Night Watchman With Wheels?". A Night Watchman With Wheels?. New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "300-pound robot is new breed of crime-fighting machine". 300-pound robot is new breed of crime-fighting machine. FOX News. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Scharr, Jill. "Real-Life 'RoboCop' May Be Coming to a Street Near You". Livescience. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Knightscope website". Knightscope. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Knightscope team". Knightscope Team Page. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "California company builds 5-foot android robocops to control crime-ridden areas". RT Question More. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Robinson, James. "Knightscope’s new robotic law enforcer is like staring at the demise of humanity". Pandodaily. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h "Knightscope technology". Knightscope, Inc. Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Cava, Marco. "Change Agents: William Li's robot wants to police you". USA Today. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Brandon, John. "5 Uses for the Surveillance Robot of Tomorrow". CIO. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Chi, Thien Thien. "Back in the Fray with a Mechanical Body". Archived from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "Knightscope Selects Segway’s RMP220 as a Base Platform for its K5 Autonomous Data Machine to Predict and Prevent Crime". Segway Robotics. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "Autonomous Data Machines: Knightscope". Postscapes. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  16. ^ Geek, Uber. "Knightscope – World’s First Robotic Security Guard". Wonderful Engineering. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Ingham, Lucy. "RISE OF ROBOCOP: THE AUTONOMOUS ROBOT THAT PREDICTS AND PREVENTS CRIME". Factor. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  18. ^ Levine, Barry. "Crime-fighting robot maker Knightscope scores million-dollar seed round". Venture Beat News. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  19. ^ Taylor, Chris. "The K5 Robot: A Roomba for Crime". Mashable. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  20. ^ Williams, Martyn. "Will this robot make America safer?". PCWorld. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  21. ^ Lasher, Ed. "ROBOCOP IS A CRIME-FIGHTING ROOMBA". FIBE.RS. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Pareek, Shabdita. "The Knightscope K5 robot could replace some security guards". MySecuritySign. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  23. ^ Wells, Georgia. "Mall Powers Down Security Robots After One Bumps into Toddler". MarketWatch. Retrieved 14 July 2016. 
  24. ^ Kravetz, David. "Silicon Valley security robot beat up in parking lot, police say". Ars Technica. Retrieved 26 April 2017.