A security robot has been hired to monitor a Texas airport's doors and looks more than a little miffed about the whole ordeal

 A YouTube screenshot from a video demonstrating the Knightscope K5 security robot.
A YouTube screenshot from a video demonstrating the Knightscope K5 security robot.

When we imagine robots, our minds often go towards a sci-fi future in which our world, or perhaps even the worlds beyond it, are populated with fantastical machines performing fantastical tasks. However, the reality in 2024 is a little more down to Earth. Spare a thought then for this particular model of machine, as rather than ushering in a new dawn of technological revolution, it's instead been hired by San Antonio airport to stand near some doors.

The model in question is one of Knightscope's K5 autonomous security robots, and it's a fairly impressive tower of authoritarian power (via The Guardian). Weighing in at 420lb and standing at just over five feet tall, the robot is designed for outdoor or indoor use, primarily in a security capacity. And San Antonio city council has just approved a year long contract to rent one as an airport security measure.

Before you imagine the machine checking your bags and making sure you take your shoes off before you go through the scanner however, think again. Robbie (can I call you Robbie? I shall regardless) has instead been brought in for the purpose of operating near doors with frequently activated alarms.

If a door alarm is set-off, Robbie will wheel himself over to the location of the disturbance and take a photo of the individual that activated the alarm and send that information to the airport command centre, so that they might identify whether its simply a member of staff attempting to access a required area, or a ne'er-do-well up to no good.

Bit of a downgrade from furthering the potential of mankind, but hey, someone's got to do it. Given that frowning, Cylon-like front aperture, it doesn't look like the robot is too pleased about the new beat, although in this case it would not be alone.

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San Antonio council member Jalen McKee-Rodriguez voted against the contract, among others, objecting to surveillance concerns, while another council member voiced their concerns about the potential replacement of valuable members of staff for robot equivalents. The vote, however, passed regardless, so dear Robert (can I call you Robert?) is due to begin making his rounds in the next few months.

If the Knightscope K5 looks familiar, you may be remembering a story from 2017 in which an earlier model fell, somewhat famously, into a water fountain, triggering its early demise.

The Knightscope K5 has had something of a mixed reaction during it's time on various security beats, including a stint with the NYPD, with some feeling that the introduction of autonomous security was a move towards a somewhat dystopian and authoritarian way of policing. A search on YouTube reveals many videos of people interacting with the machines, often with curiosity, or sometimes just to mess with them for funsies.

It's a hard life being a robot snitch, but given this new contract it seems like there are still potential use-cases for autonomous security bots in our day-to-day lives, even if they do remain seemingly unpopular.

If Robbie is reading this article, and I happen to travel to Texas via San Antonio, please remember that this hardware writer was relatively kind. I won't try and go through any alarmed doors, big buddy, I promise. No photos, please.