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Knightscope unveils two new crime-fighting bots

New automated security focuses on weapons detection, greater mobility

Two new automated security bots designed to monitor criminal activity, search for concealed weapons and be the "eyes and ears" for law enforcement will be hitting the market next year, according to an announcement by Mountain View-based Knightscope.

At a press event Tuesday morning, Knightscope CEO William Santana Li said the company plans to release two new models in 2018 that would fill pressing security needs in bustling locales like hospitals and airports as well as large, open areas like wind farms.

Knightscope is best known for its egg-shaped, 300-pound autonomous "K5" security robots, which are equipped with a broad range of sensors, cameras and audio recording devices. Though the company is tight-lipped about where the K5 bots are in use, the bots can be seen pacing in front of the company's headquarters on Terra Bella Avenue.

The newly debuted "K1" model, on the other hand, is a tall, stationary device designed to track foot traffic through busy areas including airport entries and luggage areas as well as hospital entrances. One of the major perks of the new model, Li said, is that it can detect concealed weapons, making it a powerful tool in combating illegal weapons.

Hospitals in particular, Li said, don't have the same resources as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and detection weapons on entrants can be a big deal following violent gang-related incidents. The T1 also has radiation detection, and could potentially be used to detect biochemical weapons.

The other new model to debut on Tuesday is the "K7" robot, which looks like a sleek, futuristic version of a four-wheel dune buggy and stands in stark contrast to the bulky body of the K5 model. The multi-terrain vehicle is far more mobile than its predecessors, and is best suited for monitoring large areas like air fields and wind farms, Li said. A beta prototype is expected to be complete and shipped out next year.

The company declined to say how fast the K7 bot could move, or whether it can climb over or circumnavigate obstacles.

Knightscope's robots currently provide security at dozens of locations across the country, with relative close locations including the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and the Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, according to Stacy Dean Stephens, Knightscope's VP of marketing and sales.

Stephens said numerous police departments and public law enforcement agencies have shown an interest in the bots, but they aren't likely to pick up the leading-edge technology.

"Law enforcement is not a good example of early adopters," he said.

With each new contract, Li said the company has adjusted its bots to better handle real-life situations that are challenging to predict during test runs. The bot has to figure out an appropriate response, for example, if a crowd of children run over and surround the bot.

"You have to be out in the field," he said. "Every location we've learned something new."

The company issued an apology last year after parents alleged that their 17-month-old toddler was injured by one of Knightscope's robots while it was patrolling the Stanford Shopping Center, and soon after announced a new and improved version of the robot designed to avoid similar types of accidents.

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