Dubai will start replacing real police officers with robo-cops in May

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

As robots, and robo systems, become more capable countries are finding new uses for them, this will be the first time robo-cops are used en masse to assist the public.

 

Dubai is a country, or more specifically an Emirate, that’s not just looking to the future but embracing it with gusto, and you’d be hard pressed to find any other country on Earth, even in the American heartland of Silicon Valley, that could match them for ambition.

 

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In just the past year the rulers of Dubai have announced plans to put the whole Emirate on the blockchain and head to Mars, and they’ve signed deals to buy over 200 self-driving Tesla’s, and create the world’s first autonomous Sky Taxi service and the world’s first Hyperloop network – a futuristic “train in a tube” that whisks people around at Mach speeds. Oh, and late last year they also announced that they’re going to replace real street police with robo-cops.

Now, just a few months on from that last announcement Dubai’s Chief of Police, Brigadier Abdullah Bin Sultan, has formally announced that the first robot police officer will hit the streets of Dubai by May this year, and that members of the public will be able to report crimes to the multilingual police robot using a touchscreen on its chest.

 

Dubai’s new robocop in “action”
 

The friendly robot, which was first unveiled at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition last year, can salute and shake hands, and can also be used by members of the public to pay traffic fines and submit paperwork. All exciting stuff.

By 2030 though Abdullah Bin Sultan wants at least one of his police stations to be fully autonomous, and over 25 percent of his police force to be robots. And if you think that they’re all going to be the cute, dorky kind of robots then something tells me that you’re going to have to think again. Yes, the first generation models are basic, but that’s the rule of thumb for first generation models, however, as Dubai races to embrace the future there’s nothing to say that the next generation of robot police will be as tame. Think surveillance, think patrols…

 

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The Emirates being the Emirates though I for one hope, and have no reason to suspect otherwise, that it will be done sensibly and it’ll be interesting to watch how the robots behave, and how the public reacts to them.

“We are looking to have more robots in the future to handle policing. By 2030, we are keen to make robots around 25 per cent of the total police force. We are looking to make everything smart in Dubai Police, and by 2030, we will have the first smart police station which won’t require human employees,” said Abdullah Bin Sultan.

As we start entering a new “pre-crime” era when researchers are beginning to put together the first pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that lets law enforcement agencies predict crime – and I’m not just talking about interesting analytical heat maps and predictive crime analytics solutions like those used by the NYPD and sold by companies like IBM and Microsoft – the rate at which these new robots could evolve into something more “capable” could be staggering.

Think, for example, of combining the world’s most advanced humanoid robot Atlas, from Boston Dynamics, with advanced artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision and sensor systems – and even a hive mind – and put it in an autonomous vehicle, a Tesla perhaps, and you have a cruising patrol officer.

 

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Of course, I’m just warming up. The capability of technologies that we have at our disposal today, let alone tomorrow, is staggering – whether it’s being able to analyse people’s brain wave patterns to detect guilt, or simply pulling secrets right out of people heads, you haven’t seen anything yet, and put all of these discrete technologies together and you have a whole new robot…

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