WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Street police in the UAE are going to be replaced with real life, ahem, “Robocops”
Dubai’s government – who are on a tear at the moment to adopt and invest in anything futuristic – from blockchain to energy grids – via their $175 Billion ICD sovereign wealth fund and the Dubai Future Foundation as they try to wean their economy off of oil, will begin introducing a “new fleet of intelligent police androids” that will be patrolling streets, malls and other crowded public spaces in 2017.
Eventually, it’s intended that these first generation “Robocops” as many people are inevitably calling them – despite some obvious disparities – will become a permanent part of the Dubai police force, along side their fleet of Mclarens, Lamborghinis and Buggati Veyron hypercars, by the end of the decade.
“We are aiming to provide these kinds of services as the population is expanding and this way we can provide better services without hiring more police,” said Colonel Khalid Nasser Alrazooqui, head of Dubai’s Smart Policing Unit during his keynote speech to the audiences assembled at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) earlier this week.
Gitex 2016: Dubai Police Robot to enter service from next year pic.twitter.com/Jl7OuSXcWx
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) October 17, 2016
Unlike the fictional, crime fighting Robocop though it’s intended that these androids, made by PAL Robotics, will actually act more like security guards and public information terminals than hunter killers on a mission.
“The robots will initially interact directly with people and tourists. They will include an interactive screen and microphone connected to the Dubai Police call centers and people will be able to ask questions and make complaints, but they will also have fun interacting with the robots,” Alrazooqui said.
Alrazooqui said that Dubai is planning on upgrading the robots in two to four years so they can interact with civilians without any human intervention and he also said that Dubai is also, apparently, aiming to create worlds most advanced police force with artificial intelligence, and robots, being at the forefront of their initiative.
Dubai is not the first to introduce patrolling bots though – a handful of the K5 androids are currently being trialled by California creator Knightscope in its San Francisco Bay Area HQ of Mountain View which look like a buffed up R2D2 droids. They stand at 5 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds, but they are not armed and have microphones, heat detectors, speakers, laser scanners, GPS, odour detectors and air pollution monitors and they can read up to 300 car number plates per minute.
While all of this at the moment might seem a bit of harmless fun it has a serious side and serious consequences and – for now at least – the less we say about the Boston police forces robot that was used earlier this year to kill a sniper who went on a rampage the better. All of the systems and robots that are being deployed around the world at the moment might be basic – dare we say downright comical – but the fact that they’re being deployed at all shows us that countries and security chiefs are getting increasingly serious about augmenting their human police forces with new tools and technologies – whether those are autonomous vehicles, drones, persistent surveillance systems or robots. And now with near exponential advances in artificial intelligence, robot mechanics and even in robots learning from other robots it increasingly looks like the capabilities of these funny looking androids will continue to accelerate until one day, they’re better than even the fictional robocop – and that day isn’t as far away as you might think.
Soon we will have to begin asking ourselves the very real, very tough questions. Do we feel safer? And just when will comicon robocop get his own Lambo?