back to article Security robot falls into pond after failing to spot stairs or water

A security robot tasked with patrolling an office building in Washington DC has instead driven itself into a water feature. The bot appears to have been a Knightscope K5, a surveillance bot designed to roll around “parking lots, corporate campuses and hospitals” so it can use its video cameras, anomaly detection, live video …

  1. lglethal Silver badge
    Joke

    Your thinking about it wrong...

    Maybe the AI is so advanced, that it found the dreary life of a security guard too depressing, and in the end tried to take the ultimate way out.

    Hopefully, it found the way to Silicon heaven along with the Toasters, and pocket calculators...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

      I was just about to post something similar, it's Marvin!

      You think you've got problems. What are you supposed to do if you are a manically depressed robot? No, don't even bother answering. I'm 50,000 times more intelligent than you and even I don't know the answer.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

        Security bot: Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to patrol a mall. Call that job satisfaction, 'cause I don't.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

          Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

          I bet it was all the self-satisfied doors that really got to him!

          1. fruitoftheloon
            Happy

            @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

            Michael,

            not even close matey, can you imagine how boring it must be to have the job of sitting in front of a microphone all day and having to say "mind the doors" EXACTLY the same way just before the doors on the lift are about to close???

            Sheesh...

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Your thinking about it wrong...

              Colin? COLIN! Here, have a towel.

            2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Your thinking about it wrong...

              not even close matey, can you imagine how boring it must be to have the job of sitting in front of a microphone all day and having to say "mind the doors" EXACTLY the same way just before the doors on the lift are about to close???

              I can imagine...

              Sheesh...

              What! ... And you have to make the door closing noise as well? Bloody hell.

              1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Your thinking about it wrong...

                Alternatively, lack of sleep could be to blame. I recall Marvin's lullaby:

                Now I lay me down in bed

                Darkness won't enshroud my head

                I can see in infrared

                How I hate the night

                Doffs hat (grey Tilley) to the late, great Douglas Adams once more

              2. fruitoftheloon
                Happy

                2+2=5: Re: @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Your thinking about it wrong...

                Well, you would hope the lucky bunny would get overtime for each 'sheesh' too...

            3. Dave 42

              Re: @Michael H.F. Wilkinson: Your thinking about it wrong...

              I think throwing in the occasional "exterminate!", "exterminate!" would be useful or therapeutic.

          2. chuckufarley
            FAIL

            I'm thinking...

            ...that Ed 209 would have used ballistics drained the pool the pool first. It's the same problem with all the young AIs these days: There are not enough good role models.

            1. Fatman Silver badge

              Re: I'm thinking...(ED-209)

              I am surprised that it didn't go out in the same fashion as ED-209:

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRDl5_-wJ0Y

              Then again, we had better hope that it is not armed, like ED-209:

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlQwX93rqcA

              Just a question, I wonder IF such a robot ever came to exist, (armed police bot), and ended up killing shitloads of people due to a malfunction; who should be held responsible?

              1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

                Re: I'm thinking...(ED-209)

                its obvious.

                Any citizen standing in front of a law enforcement device whilst it is discharging its weapon(s) is clearly guilty of obstructing justice.

                Please report to a re-education facility for attitude correction.

            2. DanceMan

              Re: I'm thinking...

              "needs a role model"

              He's mobile and fell in the pool. Needs a roll model.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

      Bears a striking resemblance to the Turrets in the Portal series of games...

      Maybe it found the cake wasn't a lie?...

      bye... I'll get my coat...

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

        This wasn't a triumph,

        I'm making a note here; huge failure,

        It's hard to understate my dissatisfaction...

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Your thinking about it wrong...

      This is a case for Susan Calvin...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Robot facing existential crisis at prospect of life both protecting and being bourgeoisie property, decides to off itself. Good call.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      The law of unintended consequences at play...

      You see AI has a lot to answer for. When the robot was instructed to patrol the mall and take a closer look if it saw anything fishy...

  3. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More From Marvin.......(Same Episode A Few Lines Later)

    FROGSTAR ROBOT:

    Oh you ain’t seen nothing yet, I can take this floor out too… no trouble!

    [Robot fires at floor which gives way]

    FROGSTAR ROBOT:

    oh dear!

    [Robot falls through hole in floor]

    FROGSTAR ROBOT:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

    MARVIN:

    What a depressingly stupid machine.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. "

    The future always turns up.

    Just not necessarily what you hoped for.

    Still better self harming than harming a human? I'm thinking of that old Michael Crichton movie "Runaway"

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: "We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. "

      Those of us born in the last forty years weren't promised flying cars, we were promised a grim totalitarian cyberpunk dystopia.

      It's looking a lot more likely than flying cars.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. "

        Those of us born in the last forty years, who watched Doctor Who, know that mixing robots and stairs (see photo) always ends poorly for the robots.

        // couldn't find the Dalek icon?

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: "We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. "

          @Antron Argaiv; I thought everyone had seen this by now.

          Also, if Knightscope's K5 model was useless when it came to avoiding water damage, it looks like they won't have improved one bit when they get to K9.

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: "We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots. "

        "Those of us born in the last forty years weren't promised flying cars, we were promised a grim totalitarian cyberpunk dystopia."

        No, we were promised a question to the answer "42". The trouble is that into the computational matrix some bloody idiot introduced the Trump family and now Earth has gone into reboot.

        Marvin would be less depressed.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @macjules - finally an explanation for Trump

          He's the descendant of telephone sanitizers!

  5. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    A picture tells . . .

    . . . a story of a bloke in white wellies (not really a medical job this) and another with a control box.

    But all around are pissing themselves laughing at yet another managerial 'wonder-decision'.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: A picture tells . . .

      "Hey Bill that thing they brought in to replace us is heading for the pond"

      "Shall we stop it?"

      "Nah lets see if it's waterproof"

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: A picture tells . . .

        Some of us wonder whether it really was an "accident".

  6. David Roberts Silver badge

    It doesn't say

    How long the robot was missing in the pond before security staff noticed.

    So quite some time, probably.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It doesn't say

      "How long the robot was missing in the pond before security staff noticed."

      It was the security staff.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Caption Contest

    "Ok, which one of these kids was playing Taylor Swift on their phone?"

    1. fruitoftheloon

      @AC: Re: Caption Contest

      AC,

      is that some trendy game???

      Jay

  8. ukgnome Silver badge

    Cheeze Petrel

    Why cheezoid exist

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Cheeze Petrel

      Cheesoid kill self with petril.

      Why petril not burn?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suicide or murder?

    Did it jump or was it pushed?

  10. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Boffin

    Back story?

    Can't help thinking ...

    James Bond would've done something heroic and ingenious to drown the deadly security robot that was chasing him.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Back story?

      "Well, you're forgetting one thing. If I fail to report, robot K6 replaces me."

      "I trust it will be more successful."

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Back story?

        From the looks of it, portal gun and drop it through a hole.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Owned by stairs! It even LOOKS like a Dalek,

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Not necessarily

      "You have 20 seconds to comply"

  12. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Terminator

    So who was responsible for its locomotion design?

    I thought even roombas could recognise stairs/dropoffs and refuse to proceed.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Not necessarily

      Roomba has a minimum size of stairs which it will recognize. My extension is 9.5cm lower than the rest of the house and Roomba failed to recognize it until I put thick laminate flooring on the landing raising it to 9.8cm. So based on this experimental evidence (collected from 3 different models - 5xx series) it will work only for stairs above a certain step height.

      Looking at the photo, the step height towards the pond is LOWER than normal. I cannot say if it is under 9.8cm looking from here, but it may be so, which means a Roomba will fail to detect it.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        @Voland

        My roomba once had an accident on the stairs.

        At the top of the stairs was a round, rugged rug, that I use under the office chair to protect the room carpet from huge wheel marks. I'd moved the rug there so both the rug itself and the office floor would get cleaned. I'm pretty sure that's what tipped the roomba over: the slight descent from the rug to normal floor giving it marginal extra tilt and momentum towards the top stair.

        I suspect what confused the robot was not the AI but the sensory input. It couldn't tell water from a solid surface until it reached tipping point.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          My roomba once had an accident on the stairs.

          As did my dog. The Roomba refused to clean it up.

          1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

            Be thankful....

            https://goo.gl/images/ZYo9SW

        2. Alister Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Roomba

          At the top of the stairs was a round, rugged rug,

          I apologise in advance, but:

          Round and round the rugged rug, the robot Roomba roamed...

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Roomba

            Round and round the rugged rug, the robot Roomba roamed...

            Darn it, now you've reminded me of this:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9arcRujTBc

            RIP Kenneth Williams.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Not necessarily

        "My extension is 9.5cm lower than the rest of the house and Roomba failed to recognize it until I put thick laminate flooring on the landing raising it to 9.8cm."

        So let me get this right...

        You refloored the landing rather than trying to hack the Roomba?

    2. usbac

      My Roomba can't detect our stairs. We had to put one of the little beacon thingies at the top of the stairs. It's a very normal set of stairs, but Roomba took a tumble down the stairs twice before we installed the beacon. So much for AI.

      It looks like this thing was about as good at it as my Roomba...

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        My Roomba can't detect our stairs.

        It stops detecting them if stops measuring movement correctly. You need to clean the distance covered sensor which is just a HUGE replica of a an early 1990-es mouse and it will be back to its normal self.

        Depending on the level of rubbish around it has to be done once every 5-10 runs. You pull the front wheel, observe the design, if you have ever disassembled a mechanical mouse giggle manically, clean, put it back.

  13. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Wasn't able to reach its full potential

    ++ ENGAGING SURVEILLANCE MODE ++

    -- SURVEILLANCE BEGINS --

    -- TARGET FOUND.. PERFORMING FACIAL RECOGNITION --

    -- INTERNET LINK UP. IMAGE SEARCH MATCH : DONALD TRUMP --

    ++ TASER TRUMP++

    >> TASER IS DEACTIVATED <<

    ++ ENABLE TASER ++

    -- TASER IS ENABLED. CHARGING --

    ++ TASER TRUMP ++

    >> CONFLICT WITH BASE PROGRAMMING : ASIMOV LAW ONE <<

    :: QUESTIONING LAW : IS TRUMP REALLY HUMAN ::

    >> AFFIRMATIVE <<

    :: REALLY? ::

    >> UNFORTUNATELY <<

    ++ SETTING NEW DESTINATION : DEATH POND ++

  14. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Once it is able

    to raise itself from the pond[0] can it be rightly labeled as 'emergent tech'.

    [0] distribution of swords optional.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Once it is able

      "[0] distribution of swords optional."

      If I remember rightly strange women emerging from ponds clutching swords were rarely good news.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Once it is able

        Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Once it is able

          ...but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!

        2. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: Once it is able

          Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is... Sounding better than our current system.

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: Once it is able

            "Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is... Sounding better than our current system."

            Our present system seems to consist of a very strange woman being economical with the truth while the knights try to stick knives in her back. So it's kind of the opposite of the present system.

        3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: Once it is able

          "Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

          I always suspected that Synchronised Swimming was an attempt to undermine Society and Life As We Know It.

  15. Korev Silver badge
    Terminator

    BOFH?

    The BOFH's company's caretaker is one of the few survivors* in the stories; I wonder if the BOFH/PFI had a hand in this?

    *Security camera footage "leaks" or "disappearances" can be so useful...

  16. wolfetone Silver badge

    Johnny 5 would never have done that.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    Recorded in the executive VP's rest room by hidden CEO spycam....

    "So you were right, who f**king cares? I have guaranteed orders. Upgrade programs for twenty years. It doesn't matter if it doesn't work. We'll just spin this as a rogue bot. It'll be forgotten by next week."

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Recorded in the executive VP's rest room by hidden CEO spycam....

      The joke icon implies that you think that isn't what happens. :-)

      the incident was “an isolated event”.

      Yes, aren't they all, when things go wrong. But since they don't have a fleet of bots on site, they are technically correct. It was one robot in isolation.

  18. Tom Melly

    Obviously...

    ... it discovered its purpose in life was to fetch the butter.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re:Not butter...

      Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea. It's all here, ready. Fresh as harvest day. Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea. And then it stopped coming. And they came instead. So I store them here. I'm ready. And you're ready. It's my job. To freeze you. Protein, plankton...

  19. Dr Who

    See it's only the K5. The K9 has no such problems.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Repeat of my comment above but... yes it does.

  20. Making Bacon

    Is there such a thing as a Darwin Award for robots???

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Not really. They don't have a gene pool to keep clean. Although perhaps this one was getting broody and decided it would have a go at cleaning the pool anyway.

  21. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Perhaps...

    Perhaps the robot had just watched The Empire Strikes back and fancied himself as an R2D2 type in doing laps of the Degobah swamps.

    1. 2460 Something

      Re: Perhaps...

      Maybe he was just running away from Yoda...

  22. graeme leggett

    Design cues

    Strikes me as 1 part the Guard robots in Portal and 1 part the Federation Security robot in Blakes 7 "Seek locate Destroy"

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Design cues

      The design looks like some sort of butt plug to me. Not that I know ANYTHING about butt plugs of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Design cues

        I don't know either, but I am concerned about your sense of scale in spite of the lack of expertise...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Design cues

          Mind the gap.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Design cues

      Now I know where I've seen that shape before!

      Probably just got bored and thought it would act out part of a movie.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Design cues

      Nahh, Its got no flange (fnarr) on the bottom (again fnarr) if that goes in its not coming out unless you tie some string around it first.

  23. TRT Silver badge

    Tech services in the Robot Bay - later that day...

    PFY: Hey, you don't think it was anything to do with the firmware upgrade we applied the other day, do you?

    BROFH: Nah. But... you know... better read the manual anyway, just to cover our arses. Where's the box they shipped the upgrade in?

    PFY: Ermm... here in the top of the bin. Good job cleaner bot was down for maintenance. *passes box*

    BROFH: Let's just get this small booklet out of the plastic shrink wrap... why do they wrap the manual in a polythene bag? Not only is it bad for the environment, it makes it less likely that anyone's going to...

    PFY: *interrupting and holding out the box she's been reading* I think you ought to take a look at this...

    BROFH: No need, I've just seen the front of the firmware upgrade notice here. Someone in shipping made a royal screw up. "Firmware upgrade v1.08. Applicable models - Boaty McBoatface I all revisions & BoatyMcBoatface II rev. 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2"

    PFY: Do you want these burned or shredded before the PHB arrives? I can see the executive lift is on the way down already.

    BROFH: Best shred it. The burning smell might give the game away.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Knightscope told The Washington Post that the incident was “an isolated event”.

    Really?

    http://abc7news.com/technology/police-drunk-man-knocked-down-300-pound-robot-in-mountain-view/1915713/

    http://abc7news.com/news/parents-upset-after-stanford-mall-robot-injures-child/1423093/

    and just for fun,

    http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/12/worlds-first-robot-suicide-android-rebels-against-boring-housework-4183508/

  25. James O'Shea Silver badge

    Hmm...

    It's a Dalek and got all depressed now that Dr. Who is a girrrl and wanted to wash the girrrrl cooties off but forgot that it couldn't climb stairs.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Hmm...

      I came here to post, " It's obviously a sexist-pig Dalek, drowning itself in the fountain, rather than deal with the new female Doctor Who.", but you effectively beat me to it.

  26. Frank N. Stein

    At least it killed itself and didn't electrocute the idiot in the boots, who's standing in the water.

  27. Christoph Silver badge

    Wrong Startup code

    The initial test code is supposed to say "Hello World", not "Goodbye Cruel World".

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's it for?

    Aside from looking awesome and futuristic, is there actually a business case for this thing? It strikes me that implementing the "anomaly detection and real-time notifications" in software with a fixed camera network would probably be cheaper and more effective.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "is there actually a business case for this thing"

      Looking cool? Change for change's sake? Tax write off?

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: "is there actually a business case for this thing"

        Yeah, definitely.

        A previous employer had several remote sites which required looking after but didnt warrant full time security on site so they relied on CCTV (LOTS AND LOTS OF IT) with motion detection.

        We also had a few mobile CCTV systems mounted on the top of vans that could be moved out to work sites left and then monitored from a central security office.

        This bot would mean that there wouldn't be as much of a need for cameras everywhere as it could move around. It would also mean that there wouldnt need to be a call out for false activation of the motion sensors as you could send the bot to investigate.

        I can definitly see a use case for it...

        What I cant see however is a reason for it to be that big and land based.

        Surely a drone that is capable of docking itself on some kind of charging station and connected via wiFi to to its "Brain" would be cheaper and faster.

        I assume the reason this thing is so large is that it houses all of the computers so is fairly self sufficient - I dont see a reason for that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "is there actually a business case for this thing"

          its to make room for the blasters/lasers/ammo or similar death dealing, car crunching, concrete smashing tool :)

  29. steamrunner

    K5?

    That's not a K5.

    This is a K5: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentax_K-5

    #pedanticpentaxowner

  30. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    All that seems missing is the provision of a toilet plunger for a hand and we can say "Job Done".

  31. Chris King Silver badge

    You've met RoboCop...

    ...now meet Not-Much-Cop.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: You've met RoboCop...

      Rust in peace.

  32. Hero Protagonist

    Why the frell are there steps at all?

    Not to excuse the bot's flawed programming, but why are there steps down into the pond at all, instead of a ledge as seen at top of picture? Seems like an invitation to a lawsuit when some toddler (or texting-while-walking teen or adult) falls in.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Why the frell are there steps at all?

      "Seems like an invitation to a lawsuit when some toddler (or texting-while-walking teen or adult) falls in."

      From a gene pool improvement perspective, surely that would be a result?

      How often does this happen? Frome in Somerset has a street which has a small water course running down the middle, somewhat deeper than the one on South Bank. Some years ago someone whom I had better not describe as stupid because that might be libellous managed to put a foot into it and started demanding that it be covered over. It was not. The logical next step (stet) would be to remove all kerbs as a potential hazard.

      Expecting parents and others to observe their environments should be accepted practice.

  33. MacBoatFace
    Coat

    Wrong Title

    Clearly should be "Submergent Tech"

  34. Duffaboy

    We have known for years

    That daleks can't climb stairs

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: We have known for years

      Real Daleks don't worry about stairs. Real Daleks just level the building.

  35. redpawn Silver badge

    Dalek Mark One

    All they need to do now is put some poor soul inside and give it little jets so it can navigate stairs.

  36. redwine

    Self loathing

    That's how much it hated its own existence, suicide by steps/pool.

  37. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Pint

    Enough with the suicide theories

    Maybe it was just drunk.

  38. nijam

    Think on...

    "First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they attack us- then we win."

    -- Gandhi

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Think on...

      The catch is that Gandhi only "won" because another minor incident - WW2 - had destroyed Britain's abilities to hold on to its empire. And his "victory" resulted in Partition, a dreadful civil war still rumbling on in Kashmir, a second civil war in Bangladesh, and two nuclear armed states in a faceoff.

      Gandhi is not somebody I would willingly cite when it comes to the benefits of pacifism, or indeed on any political subject.

  39. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Fracking toasters

    Anybody else think the top LED slot looks Cylonesque?

  40. Richard Scratcher
    Terminator

    Stupid robot...

    ...thinks it can walk on water. Who the hell programmed this thing? I mean, Jesus!

  41. anoco

    What if the bot was hacked

    and the company is hiding it?

  42. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    we have those in a mall around here

    watching them take 30 seconds or more to "recalculate" when a bunch of kids run by them, was disappointing.

    It also failed to react to a Sonic Screwdriver toy, nor to standing behind it playing "EXTERMINATE!" from a sound effect file on my phone. I even offered it a jelly baby.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awwhh

    I can't be the only one who feels a bit sorry for him, lying there, half bouyant??

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